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The Bad Plus Reveals Its Roots

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Tuesday September 21, 2010

From Montreal Gazette

The Bad Plus Reveals Its Roots

MONTREAL – There are no Nirvana covers on the new Bad Plus album. In fact, there are no covers at all. For the first time in its 10-year career, the American jazz trio is releasing an album of entirely original material.

It’s a stretch for a group that first raised eyebrows with an instrumental version of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit on its 2001 self-titled debut. The song was carried over on the band’s 2003 major-label breakthrough These Are the Vistas, which also featured a rendition of Blondie’s Heart of Glass.

Over the past decade, the group has reworked songs by everyone from David Bowie to Rush. They had a go at Ornette Coleman, Pixies and Black Sabbath on 2004’s Give; added Tears for Fears, Burt Bacharach and others on 2007s’s Prog; and went to town with Nirvana (again, this time the song Lithium), Pink Floyd, Wilco, the Flaming Lips, Yes, Heart, k.d. lang, the Bee Gees and Stravinsky on 2008’s all-covers extravaganza Care, featuring distinctive vocalist Wendy Lewis. The closest The Bad Plus came to an all-originals album was with 2005’s Suspicious Activity?, but even that had a take on Vangelis’s classic theme from Chariots of Fire. So why break with tradition now, on their seventh album?

“Ten years in, we felt like it was a good time to showcase and really emphasize the fact that we’re all composers and this is predominantly an original music band,” said Reid Anderson, the group’s bassist and primary songwriter alongside pianist Ethan Iverson and drummer David King.

“The covers have certainly gotten a lot of attention, and it’s all music we’re incredibly proud of; but the focus has always been on our own music. In some way, for us not to put a cover song on the record makes a statement.”

Having cleared the slate with an album of their own material, anything is now possible for Anderson and his bandmates. They survived the early-career hype, have proven their depth, shown their chops and established an artistic identity. They have built a solid following in cities around the world, where fans know their songs and often call out for them by name. It’s a good place to be.

By T’CHA DUNLEVY, The Gazette September 10, 2010 © Copyright © The Montreal Gazette

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