I've been watching "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" since I was a kid, and wondering about the source of one particular sound effect in it. There's a scene where Snoopy is in his role as World War I flying ace, shot down behind enemy lines and furtively sneaking around -- to the soundtrack of a moody and quiet flute, accented by a high-pitched, almost screechy noise. Saturday night, I learned how you get that sound courtesy of Dave King, drummer for The Bad Plus: You rub a drumstick around the top edge of a cymbal in a circular motion. Presto!
Something else I learned from The Bad Plus at last night's show is that it really is possible for three people to pull off "The Rite of Spring." This was the world premiere of the Minneapolis jazz trio's version of the 1913 Stravinsky masterwork, which they've been laboring on for the past year, and it was impressive. Most of the heavy lifting fell to pianist Ethan Iverson, who had to replicate or at least suggest the piece's signature melodic elements enough to be recognizable. But all three of them played amazingly, filling in the spaces of music usually rendered by scores of musicians in orchestras.
No, I don't know "The Rite of Spring" backwards and forwards... Okay, I'll admit my knowledge of it basically comes from Walt Disney's "Fantasia." But they did a fantastic job of capturing the essence and full sweep of the piece, as this lay listener knows it.
"Piece o' cake, piece o' cake," Iverson quipped afterward. Maybe I was imagining it, but the posture of all three players suggested relief as they took their bows.