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 Friday, 25 July 2014
Yule Love ‘Em: The Bad Plus Returns to the Dakota, December 27-29 PDF Print
Written by Andrea Canter, Contributing Editor   
Sunday, 23 December 2012

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The Bad Plus©Andrea Canter
 

Celebrating more than a decade of collaboration, global touring, acclaimed recordings, even controversy as to their relationship to “real jazz,” The Bad Plus ranks as one of the most popular genre-bending ensembles of modern music. Bringing a surreal yet symphonic approach to an original and “borrowed” repertoire, the trio has been compared to other ensembles that seem to appeal as much to young rockers as middle-aged boppers, but they remain a unique force in modern music, covering anything from Stravinksy to Black Sabbath as well as their ever-evolving original compositions, highlighted on their 2012 release, Made Possible. Bringing together Ethan Iverson’s creative, humor-spiked percussive piano, Reid Anderson’s often-melodious, never laid-back acoustic bass, and the incredible treasure chest of rhythm and sound from Dave King’s drum menagerie, this acoustic trio is as apt to fill the Hollywood Bowl as the Village Vanguard. Fortunately for Twin Cities audiences, the three musicians are area natives, and the holidays provide us with the annual opportunity to celebrate with the Bad Plus at the Dakota, this year December 27-29, two sets each night at 7 and 9:30 pm.  

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Ethan Iverson&copyAndrea Canter
Reid Anderson and Dave King grew up in Minneapolis and jammed together as teenagers, listening to such bands as Mike and the Mechanics and Sting, and then turning to modal music and free jazz. Ethan Iverson, the one member of TBP who can not claim inspiration from a background in rock, met Anderson in college and the two played free jazz in area restaurants, hooking up with King informally in 1990. Going their separate ways, Anderson headed to Philadelphia where he studied classical bass at the Curtis Institute of Music; Iverson jumped into the music scene in New York; King spent a few years as a session musician in LA before returning to the Twin Cities where he found plenty of outlets around home, including cofounding Happy Apple. Although as a trio, Iverson, Anderson, and King had not performed in a decade, they had remained in touch and were fans of each other’s music, finally reconnecting in 1999.  

Their self-titled debut recording (Thirsty Ear, 2001) made barely a ripple in the music world, and the follow-up, Authorized Bootleg (self-produced in 2002), similarly stayed below the radar screen. It was a 2002 gig at the Village Vanguard that sparked one of the most explosive power surges of modern jazz, leading to the contract with Columbia and the subsequent releases of These Are the Vistas, Give, Suspicious Activity and Blunt Object—Live in Tokyo. Freed from Columbia, they released Prog in spring 2007 on their own imprint, Do the Math Records. Noted Troy Collins notes in All About Jazz, “The infectious originals (mostly penned by bassist Reid Anderson) easily hold their own to the selected cover tunes, no easy feat considering their iconoclastic nature…With muscular conviction and steely focus, Prog is the sound of a much heralded ensemble rising to the occasion and fulfilling the hype.”  

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Reid Anderson©Andrea Canter
Early 2009 marked the American release of For All I Care (EmArcy) and the first time TBP had added vocals, bringing in Twin Cities’ rocker Wendy Lewis. Covering diverse compositions from pop (BeeGees, Roger Miller), rock (Nirvana, Pink Floyd, Wilco, Heart) and modern classical (Stravinsky, Ligeti, Babbitt), For All I Care paid tribute to the broad range of 20th century music—and an expanded repertoire for TBP. While rock and pop covers have been fair game over the past decade, For All I Care marked the first time the trio tackled classical works. And the first time the trio did not record works by three of the most potent composers of the 21st century—Iverson, Anderson and King. But original works are the entirety of their 2011 CD, Never Stop. The ten compositions, never appearing before on record, provide a dazzling summary of the trio’s decade of collaboration, a partnership that, in its own unique way, brings together the history of modern music. (See review here!)

But original works were not the only repertoire of 2011. Next the trio tackled Stravinsky's ominous Rite of Spring. With a commission from Duke University and Lincoln Center and eight months of rehearsal, TBP unveiled their reworkings of one of the most lauded and controversial musical works of the 20th century at Duke in spring 2011, and in May brought the project to The Loring in Minneapolis. And by all accounts, The Bad Plus succeeded in turning a monolithic 20th century ballet score into a 21st century masterpiece without taking away any notes from Stravinsky. Noted Chris Vitiello on The Thread (Duke University’s Performance Blog), “The Bad Plus made Rite their own in every way, from David King’s restless drumming to Reid Anderson’s rangy bass and Ethan Iverson’s catalyzing piano. The trio displayed extreme resourcefulness in paring down Stravinsky’s enhanced orchestra of 100+ players to three instruments, and crafted a legitimate rock show in the process.”

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Dave King©Andrea Canter
We saw a lot of the Bad Plus locally in 2012, most notably when the trio joined forces with Joshua Redman for the finale of the Twin Cities Jazz Festival in June, drawing a crowd that quickly overwhelmed the confines of Mears Park. A few months later, Dave King made waves on his own, releasing a trio recording, not of the Bad Plus but of his own takes on mostly standards, recorded in spontaneous arrangements with pianist Bill Carrothers and bassist Billy Peterson, I’ve Been Ringing You. If King garnered any higher praise this year, though, it was with the full Bad Plus on the recently released Made Possible. Continuing in the realm of (mostly) original works, the new album is “at once vintage Bad Plus in its striking themes, nonchalant time-bends and full-on collective improv, and proof of this awesome ensemble's continuing evolution” (John Fordham, The Guardian).

It's hard to predict what goodies the Bad Plus have packed for the holidays. Don't be left out in the cold when the trio come to the Dakota December 27-29, warming up for their annual New Year's Eve celebration at the Village Vanguard in New York. Reserve now! 

The Dakota is located at 1010 Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis. Reservations at 612-332-5299 or www.dakotacooks.com. The Bad Plus settle in for a week at the Village Vanguard, December 31-January 6; www.villagevanguard.com


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