Sucks to be Reid Anderson

We’re at the first ever Red Sea Jazz Winter Festival in Eilat.

With the kids.

Needless to say, it’s a different experience than the one in the summer.

Seeing as my main focus is my children, I cannot deliver the same kind of accounts of the music as I did in the summer, either. Tal and I each took charge of one child. As usual, Tal got Neta, and I got Yiftah, so the whole experience of the music was as a parent-child dyad rather than the intimate individual experience I’d probably prefer.

And yet, it seems that Yiftah takes after me in music appreciation. He had his focus on stage the whole time. Seeing as we got to see almost 4 hours of live music last night and he has a rather tiny attention span, this is quite impressive.

The winter festival takes place in a closed hangar, with only one auditorium and only one show at a time. There are no food stands, only one bar, whose coffee machine broke down at least twice last night (on both occasions when I hoped to achieve a double espresso).

Upon entering the hangar before the shows started, we got to see an octet of high school kids performing, and Yiftah was already enthralled. He was very excited to see the various instruments and he totally flipped out when the singer on stage broke into scat.

The first show was the Doron Refaeli Project. It was fantastic, but I can’t really say much more about it. I was too busy watching my son get very excited with what was going on onstage. Towards the end of the show, the keyboard player lifted one of his keyboards off the stand to reveal (as I had suspected all along) that it was, in fact, a keytar. Yiftah’s mind was blown by the concept. Good idea for a birthday present?

The second show brings me back to the title of this post. The thing that sealed the deal for us when we were considering whether or not to come to the winter festival was when they announced that The Bad Plus would be coming to perform. We saw them back in the 2004 summer festival for the first time, and Tal and I both fell desperately in love with them. When they returned the following winter, I believe in December, we went to see them perform in Tel Aviv, with a Neta (then known as “Peaches”) in the oven. I confessed just a few days ago on Facebook that their version of Aphex Twin’s “Flim” was the theme song of my pregnancy with Neta.

This show started past 22:30. The kids had been on excellent behavior all evening, but this is WAAAAAAY past their bedtimes, so it was to be expected that they would be sleepy. Neta indeed fell asleep not too long after the show started. But not Yiftah.

I’m not going to dive into The Bad Plus’s bio. But they are a very interesting trio indeed. So, why does it suck to be Reid Anderson? I think it’s all too often that the bassist gets underrated. Especially when you are onstage with the epic personalities of Ethan Iverson on piano and David King on drums.

Ethan Iverson is a classical pianist, really. He always performs in a suit, with a black tie. His relationship, his passion, and his melodic virtuosity with the piano recall many great concert pianists. On the other, he is the only concert pianist I’ve ever seen to play the piano with his elbows and his forehead. He always has this slight air of psychosis about him, like under his concert suit he might just have a Captain America uniform and under the lid of his piano, a machine gun.

David King is the first person I have every seen to actually play the drums, rather than drum them. Play them. As a melodic and harmonic instrument, not as a mere means of providing rhythm. His right forearm bears a tattoo of what appears to be Babe, Paul Bunyan’s giant blue ox. Always in plaid and boots, often with a knit toque on his head, he looks like a lumberjack (no tutu included) who just happened to be thrust behind those drums. Until he starts playing. Several minutes into the first number of the show, Yiftah points at him and asks me, “Why is he going crazy?”.

Anyway, you have these two really explosive performers onstage, and you have Anderson. He’s a good bassist. REALLY good. He does hold his ground up there, but still, bassists are never really the center of attention. And he should be, at least for a bit. While The Bad Plus might have originally risen to fame with their interesting covers of popular music (“Smells Like Teen Spirit”, “Iron Man”, and “Velouria” (just listen to the drums on this one) to name a few), the majority of their body of work is original composition, by each one of the trio. And this is definitely a personal opinion here, but by far, Anderson’s compositions are the pieces that really grab me by the guts and drag me on the floor, in the best possible sense. I can’t ever hear an Anderson piece and let it just remain background music. They always make me stop whatever I’m doing and feel.

And seeing them live… With this 3.5 year old boy in my lap, who’s obviously going through a similarly emotional listening experience. After they finished (the above) “Giant”, he applauds, turns to me, and says “I said thank you for the music”. During another Anderson piece, “In Stitches”, he had to go to the bathroom. After we came back, we stood to the side of the bleachers, hugging each other tightly, taking in the music. It was beautiful.

Actually, if you look at their set, it seems like the majority of original pieces they performed were his. Maybe that is their way of giving him some of that well deserved spotlight. Maybe it doesn’t really suck to be Reid Anderson after all.

The last five or six pieces they performed all got standing ovations. You could tell the meaning of the term “bring the house down”. The bleachers were shaking with the applause and stamping. Neta slept through the whole thing, mind you.

On a side note, according to Do The Math, the excellent blog written by Ethan Iverson, they are going to be performing Igor Stavinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” in March. First one to get me a recording of that gets a box of cookies or… whatever it takes. WANT.

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Filed under Jazz, Red Sea or Not

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