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The Bad Plus' "scandalous" and "innovative" covers

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Wednesday December 07, 2016

From The Cincinnati Enquirer

Bad Plus: It’s not a cover if it’s appropriation
By: Chris Varias

The Bad Plus is a next-level cover band. Or they’re not really a cover band at all.

The leaderless jazz trio made a splash in 2003 with its first Columbia Records album, which included a go at Nirvana’s “Smells Like Team Spirit.” It was deemed something of a novelty at the time, even though pop compositions have been fodder for jazz players for as long as there has been jazz music.

“I think there must have been something about how we appropriate rock, it was a very convincing appropriation,” says Bad Plus pianist Ethan Iverson. “When jazz guys play rock songs, sometimes they’ll just jazz it up. This has been happening in jazz for decades. There are even some Beatles songs on some ‘60s Blue Note albums by Stanley Turrentine and so forth. When The Bad Plus came on with a couple of our tunes, I think there must have been something kind of serious about the rock side, which I think made it either more scandalous or innovative.”

The band recently released another collection of covers titled “It’s Hard.” That name is a “cover,” too, taken from the 1982 album by the Who.

“It’s a great title then, and it’s a great title now,” Iverson affirms.

“It’s Hard” includes nods to Prince, one of many musical giants who’ve died this year, and to Ornette Coleman, the iconic free-jazz figure who passed away in 2015. The Prince connection runs through Minnesota; Iverson’s bandmates Reid Anderson (bass) and Dave King (drums) are from Minneapolis. King chose Prince’s “The Beautiful Ones,” and The Bad Plus cut it before Prince died.

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