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The Bad Plus Covers More Ground

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Tuesday December 28, 2010

from The Wall Street Journal
by Martin Johnson

The Bad Plus Covers More Ground

Pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson and drummer David King, better known as the Bad Plus, have come a long way in their 10 years as a trio. Initially they were regarded by the jazz community as a lightweight novelty band, one that played covers of such rock and pop tunes as Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” with little of the flair or improvisational excellence that characterizes jazz.

Having now won over most doubters, the band settles in for its third annual weeklong New Year’s Eve gig at the Village Vanguard. This engagement, beginning Tuesday night at jazz’s leading shrine, is the centerpiece of a six-week tour that includes multinight bookings at leading clubs in several major cities. The Bad Plus’s latest recording, “Never Stop” (E1), is its first of all-original material, and has earned widespread praise.

“They’ve brought the jazz piano trio into the 21st century,” said veteran trumpeter John McNeil, who has played in bands with Mr. Iverson.

“The Bad Plus has brought a freer approach to the jazz trio, one that has grown out of the history of jazz,” said Jason Moran, a leading jazz pianist. “There’s a consistent dialogue between Ethan, Reid and Dave, and this interactivity is present in the improvisations. It’s smart music, and totally representative of who they are as people.”

According to Mr. Anderson, the band had a fairly simple beginning. “Dave and I were sitting on my parent’s couch talking about the need for a jazz band that could come on stage and do [Led] Zeppelin and do standards,” he said. “We really wanted to do music in a way that connected with our lives and our experience of music.”

Read the full article here