10 Essential New York Artists: #6 The Bad Plus

The News: Ethan Iverson is leaving the band.  This is, of course, unwelcome news but the change certainly seems to an amicable one as he is finishing out the live dates scheduled for this year.  As it is the end of an era, The Bad Plus shows at Village Vanguard coming up in October (10th through the 15th with Bill Frisell no less) will take on a more historic significance.  The final (foreseeable) appearance of the original trio will be at the Vanguard on New Year’s Eve.  Keep in touch with Iverson through his excellent blog.

As for the future, it looks exciting.   Longtime friend of the fellas and a familiar and well-respected name to those with an ear on jazz, Orrin Evans, has already committed to joining The Bad Plus.  The Philly-raised pianist has been a bandleader since the mid 90’s with his most recent efforts – The Evolution of Oneself and #knowingishalfthebattle – issued on the rewarding local label Smoke Sessions.  Expect the first album and tour from the new lineup next year.

The Bad Plus, like The Hold Steady are transplants from Minneapolis but have been in New York long enough to qualify for (admittedly entirely arbitrary) essential New York artists status.  

The first track on the self-titled debut album by The Bad Plus from 2001 was Abba’s Knowing Me Knowing You.  Ethan Iverson, Reid Anderson, and David King also included a dynamite version of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit on that album.  The two tracks made it clear this trio out of Minneapolis  wouldn’t be limited by genre or era in their choice of material.  In the ten rewarding albums that followed over the next fifteen years; songs by David Bowie, Wilco, Rush, The Bee Geels, Blondie, and Pink Floyd were all recorded by the leaderless group.  Rock and pop covers were not their only focus of course.  Some outings concentrated solely on original material while one tackled Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.  

In April of 2016 – following four albums of songs penned predominantly by Iverson, Anderson, and King – the Bad Plus gathered in Brooklyn (where two thirds of the group live) and recorded the twelve new covers found on the It’s Hard album.  Among the songs laid down was their take on The Beautiful Ones by Prince who sadly would be dead a week after the sessions ended.  Remarks about Prince are included in the bonus video below made up of material from my interview conducted prior to a Blue Note show in August.

Go to #7 Antibalas

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