Reverb Interview: Dave King of the Bad Plus

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Friday December 10, 2010


Reverb Interview: Dave King of the Bad Plus
By Sam DeLeo

When Stravinsky’s ‘Rite of Spring’ premiered in Paris about 100 years ago, a riot broke out. Not a riot as in laughter or amusement, but riot as in describing the chaos and fistfights erupting between those who supported and opposed the musical choreography unfolding up on the stage. Oh yeah, this was a ballet. It makes you wonder what these people would’ve done to Milli Vanilli.

We still experience musical controversies today ‘” a story in The Guardian last month detailed audiences’ continued rejection of the modern classical movement Stravinsky helped create ‘” but the polemics more often involve money and copyright, not the music itself. New bands rarely push listeners to throw down their ballet doilies and stake a line in the sand. An exception occurred with the 2003 release of the jazz album, ‘These Are the Vistas,’ the major-label debut of Minneapolis-based trio the Bad Plus.

Traditionalists and purists recoiled at some of the group’s musical sources, especially their interpretations of songs like Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ and Blondie’s ‘Heart of Glass,’ declaring these melodies too thin to improvise over in a jazz context. They also objected to the way the band approached jazz (i.e., the boisterous drumming of Dave King and the rousing percussive style of pianist Ethan Iverson). And these were valid criticisms.

But then people began mentioning that the group’s popularity might somehow stem from the fact its members were white. People began to question why the Bad Plus landed lengthy gigs at venerable jazz institutions like the Village Vanguard over other deserving musicians. How exactly the band was responsible for either of those phenomena was never explained.

Opinions like these veer from the paths of logic and reason. But they do make one wonder about what we care about when we care about music today, and what those preferences reveal of ourselves.

In advance of their four shows this weekend in Denver at Dazzle, we spoke with drummer Dave King recently about the band’s latest album, ‘Never Stop,’ their first work of all-original compositions.

Read the full interview here