The Bad Plus finds its strength in give and take

From left, David King, Ethan Iverson and Reid Anderson of Bad Plus. Credit: Cameron Wittig
From left, David King, Ethan Iverson and Reid Anderson of Bad Plus. Credit: Cameron Wittig
| Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Drummer David King says he is breathing a little easier now that The Bad Plus has passed through the days when it “took all the heat” for is forward-looking programming.

A little over a decade ago, the group was making itself known recording and performing songs by Nirvana, Queen, Rush and Blondie. King says that kind of lineup made some people look at it as some sort of “prog-jazz” band and little more.

But the reality is, he says, The Bad Plus is just a jazz trio looking for material with which it is comfortable. More importantly, it is a “leaderless” band that grows from each other's ideas.

The band will present its ideas Saturday when it performs at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild on the North Side.

“There are some places we go to all the time, but it's nice to go to a place we haven't been in awhile,” he says of the trip to the Guild, where they last appeared in 2007.

The Bad Plus consists of King, pianist Ethan Iverson and bassist Reid Anderson.

Many jazz fans initially rejected the band for its wide choice of material. Those listeners missed the exchange of ideas that made the band's work as lively and creative as many jazz bands try to be.

The music is not the key element to understanding The Bad Plus, King says. Rather, it is the trading of thoughts rather than the following of a leader.

He admits that can be difficult to understand when only heard. At performances, the exchange of ideas can be seen from the physical actions of the group. A statement by Anderson can lead to a change in rhythm from King, or vice versa.

“Really, what we wanted to have people understand was that we were on real equal footing,” he says.

King, Iverson and Anderson still are in the search for new music. Currently, the band is doing a trio version of Igor Stravinsky's “The Rite of Spring,” in which they stay close to the structure of the pieces of the work.

Naturally, a Bad Plus version of “The Rite of Spring” is going to be filled with improvisation, but the rhythmic daring with which Stravinsky wrote that piece in 1913 creates a piece of music adventurous in its own.

The group has played it in several concerts, he says, and hopes to be able to record it.

Stravinsky or Blondie, King says, the big thing to remember is the band is The Bad Plus.

“We just want to thank people for sticking with us over the years,” he says.

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 412-320-7852.

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