The Bad Plus Plus One

Julia Figueras told me first. Then I heard it from Dave Sluberski, WXXI's audio engineer. The Bad Plus brought a singer with them for their Rochester International Jazz Festival appearance. A singer?! I admit I was skeptical. The trio works so well on their own, a singer could only get in the way, I thought.

The rumors were true. After a handful of instrumental numbers last night at Kilbourn, Wendy Lewis joined the collective and they launched into their very first live set as The Bad Plus Plus One. The set list, as best as I can remember, went like this: Nirvana's Lithium, Pink Floyd's Comfortably Numb, Blue Velvet, The Bee Gees' How Deep Is Your Love, U2's New Years Day and an encore of Heart's Barracuda.

As a singer, Wendy struck me as just OK. She certainly stayed in the service of the songs, but was overpowered a few times. The arrangements are what really made it work. The songs were taken apart and put back together again with crazy glue - full throttle drama here, hushed fragility there, and let's slap on a chunk of blues and some dissonance too. It took some time to recognize some of the songs and when you did, it took some time to get over it: are they really playing the Bee Gees? Yes, they are, and it sounds amazing. It was a great reminder that labels like grunge, pop, rock and jazz don't really mean much.

If you missed it, I have good news. Wendy (and presumably those songs) will be on their forthcoming album. You'll also be able to see the second set. WXXI recorded it for the OnStage series.