Bad Plus taking a unique path to music

| Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013, 10:04 p.m.

Calling the Bad Plus a jazz trio is too simple a description.

Sure, there are three members of the band, and they are in the traditional piano-bass-drums setting. But the group's approach to music and even song-writing is so different it is nearly in a category entirely its own.

Pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson and drummer David King showed this highly individual nature at two concerts Saturday night at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild on the North Side. The first session was a performance of all-original works played in the band's manner of give-and-take that moves it far from the trio work of Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans or even Keith Jarrett.

Rather than building their work around expansive explorations of melody, the Bad Plus creates its sound by building sonic creations that depend on interchange among the three players more than the structure of the songs.

One of the most impressive works of the first set was the opening “Pound for Pound,” which began with a simple statement from drummer King, followed by a nearly equally simple line from Iverson. His melody hardly changed at all in the piece, but the drummer and bassist Anderson grew in their work so much the piece grew like a Phillip Glass composition. The development was simple in construction, but its sound became massive.

Each of the players had pieces where they drove the show. King's “Thrift Store Jewelry” was a fast piece that followed and contrasted greatly to the gentler “Mint.” Its speed was striking right away, but King also added a roaring solo that drove the piece into its finale.

Similarly, Anderson was the key behind “Seven-Minute Mind” with complex and forceful bass work.

Iverson provides one of the more fascinating aspects of the group. He operates far from the Peterson-Jarrett style and sometimes sounds almost simplistic in his statements. But all of them bet bigger — almost without notice.

On “People Like You,” for instance, his ballad-like melody moved with the addition of a few notes on each statement of theme. The work of Anderson and King matched his work, making the piece get larger.

The bassist, who was the show's spokesman, also added some humor to the set, singing a bluesy “Don't Run Away” toward the end of the concert, urging listeners to meet them after the set and buy CDs and T-shirts.

There is plenty of Plus in this bad.

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

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