The Bad Plus
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The Bad Plus is a collective made up of bassist Reid Anderson, pianist Ethan Iverson, and drummer David King. All three are from the Midwest and they have known each other since their teens. Nonetheless, with the exception of one unimpressive meeting in 1990, it is only after spending their formative 20s apart -- King as a session player in Los Angeles, Iverson as the musical director for the prestigious Mark Morris Dance Group, Anderson as a prominent up-and-coming player on the New York jazz scene -- that they reunited in late 2000 to play a weekend club date in Minneapolis. The chemistry was immediate and obvious. They planned a second gig and a one-day recording session for the indie jazz label Fresh Sound and The Bad Plus was born. On this same first gig, the nascent group played their first rock cover, Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Thus began The Bad Plus trademark of complementing original repertoire with their takes on mainstream pop "standards" including ABBA, Black Sabbath, the Bee Gees, Queen, Blondie, Aphex Twin, Neil Young, and Bjork. While the covers helped to spread their reputation, they comprise less than 20% of the band's live repertoire. Anderson, Iverson, and King are all composers in their own right, each boasting a distinctive style. Iverson's music is the more intellectual and complex, Anderson's the more melodic and romantic, and King's the more rhythmic and surreal. Four years ago, The Bad Plus released These Are The Vistas, their first recording for the venerable Columbia label. With a sound more akin to a rock and roll assault than to the politeness of a jazz piano trio, with influences ranging from Stravinsky to Ornette Coleman, and a repertoire blending diverse original material and provocative covers of Nirvana and Aphex Twin, The Bad Plus earned a reputation as one of the most forward-thinking groups in music. Produced by Tchad Blake, among the most innovative engineers of the last years, it sounded like no other jazz recording. Championed by mainstream rock press, reviled by jazz purists, hailed by others as music's great hope, Vistas was embraced in the US and abroad. The group became staples at NPR and college radio and developed a strong presence on the international concert circuit, playing more than 170 shows in 2006 alone. Four years and two more landmark Blake-produced albums later (2004's Give and 2005's Suspicious Activity?), The Bad Plus turns the page with their newest release, PROG. Joining The Bad Plus camp is English FCber-engineer/mixer Tony Platt -- best known for recording and mixing AC/DC's classic Back In Black along with his work for Bob Marley, the Stones, The Who and Led Zeppelin -- who engineered and co-produced PROG over a two-week period last fall in Minnesota. In sharp contrast to Blake's deliberately low-fi approach, Platt created a recording which is truer to the band's live sound. The Bad Plus tackle four covers: Tears For Fears' "Everybody Wants to Rule The World" and Burt Bacharach's "This Guy's In Love With You" plus massively deconstructed versions of Rush's "Tom Sawyer" and David Bowie's "Life On Mars." As is now a Bad Plus tradition, the covers frame the band's original compositions, including the stunning new ballad, "Giant," the intricately angular "Mint," and the final installment in their tribute to athleticism, "1980 World Champion." Favoring group improvisation over individual solos, eschewing all jazz cliches, The Bad Plus rip into each set with a combination of Swiss-watch precision, the spectrum of dynamics and reckless abandon.