Lawrence students agree: Bad Touch good

Jake Cihla

Last Saturday Lawrentians had the opportunity to hear some incredibly progressive, original music from one of New York’s up and coming groups, Bad Touch. The band members, guitarist Nate Radley, organist Gary Versace and drummer Ted Poor held an hour-long question and answer session in the afternoon, during which they discussed their individual influences and career experiences. Through their stories, they provided invaluable information for those Lawrentian musicians considering a move to “The City” — as New York is referred to in the jazz realm.
Every member of Bad Touch stressed how fortunate they are as individuals to play within such a cohesive group, which allows them to be their own person musically.
Their performance later in the evening clearly reflected the musical bond shared by these three men. The organ trio of Hammond B3, drums and guitar is a standard format in the jazz world, but those expecting the straight ahead swing and grooving blues typical of an organ trio had a surprise waiting for them. The concert consisted entirely of original compositions, which defied traditional categorization into a standard genre; it could best be described as a combination between contemporary jazz and free improvisation.
While Bad Touch’s music lacked clear, defined melodies, it conveyed indescribable amounts of emotion, with each tune revealing yet another layer of feeling. At first I felt that both Radley and Versace could have used more sonically colorful settings on their instruments. However, the more I listened, the more I heard the organ and guitar blend into one cohesive-sounding instrument.
Throughout the concert, Radley and Versace interwove their melodic lines creating an intense emotional dialogue across the stage, with tasteful interjections by Poor on drums.
Talking with members of the audience after the concert, there was general consensus that something truly great had just happened. Carl Kennedy was especially moved by the dynamic contrast between the organ and guitar; at times, each musician would alternately increase the dramatic tension leading to an ebb and flow of musical conversation, only to be resolved by the swell of music from both musicians simultaneously, completely overwhelming the listener.
As Poor pointed out in his conversations with the audience after the concert, part of the reason for this nearly telepathic level of communication was due to Versace filling both the role of keyboardist and bassist. With an organist, the group closes the gap that has perpetually plagued the bass-piano connection, allowing for a much more cohesive rhythm section.
By their own description Bad Touch “has set out to nurture their identity as a collective. With a shared goal of developing improvised music, these likeminded musicians draw on a wide spectrum of jazz improvisational techniques within original compositions.” Bad Touch has clearly taken the jazz world to a new dimension.
Like Ahmad Jamal’s revolutionary trio from the 1950s, this group would rightly hold the title as “Chamber Music of the New Jazz.” Their sound is progressive and unique and, with any luck, this group will continue to develop and evolve over the years, becoming one of the defining small groups of the progressive jazz movement.