Mi amigo, the Medetron

Posted on by LukeB

One would expect songs like My Friend the Medetron, Giant, and Smells Like Teen Spirit to appear anywhere but at a jazz concert. And one would expect to to be in Latin America when you hear the words “otro, otro”, calling for an encore. But no, this was the scene at the Crystal Ballroom, during two of Saturday’s most exciting shows.

The Bad Plus is phenomenal at creating tension through harmonic dissonance and rhythmic frenzy. But what they are even better at is releasing that tension. Saturday’s afternoon crowd at the Crystal Ballroom was at the mercy of Ethan Iverson, Reid Anderson, and David King, the power trio who call themselves the Bad Plus. I think the audience was often impressed by the highly technical arrangements and incredible passion of the players, but occasionally confused by the Bad Plus’s interpretation of “jazz”. Their compositions are often based on rhythmic grooves and phrases (like in “physical cities”) that are driven by the incredible drumming of David King, rather than following harmonic obligation of standard jazz. The high point of this show arrived during Anderson’s David Bowie arrangement, which resulted in a middle-of-the show standing ovation for this incredible power trio.

Little did I know that later that night the Spanish Harlem Jazz Orchestra would ignite that same venue, only without chairs. Saturday night there was a completely different crowd at this jazz festival event; mostly young couples ready to dance. It would have taken a lot of effort to not move around to the salsa music of the Spanish Harlem Orchestra. Although the Crystal Ballroom accommodated all preferences, the floor was literally bouncing in response to the young and old dancers. This band, dedicated to preserving the authentic Latino rhythms and songs, is a collaboration of incredible musicians in New York who take salsa all over the world. It was a true treat to have them as a part of the Portland Jazz Festival, and the crowd knew it.

-luke

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