The Bad Plus

The Bad Plus has garnered international recognition over the last few years for their progressive jazz sound. An acoustic jazz trio comprised of bassist Reid Anderson, pianist Ethan Iverson and drummer David King, the band mix elements of non jazz music into their work to create a vibrant and exciting sound.

They have released three albums under the Columbia label (These Are The Vistas, Give, and Suspicious Activity). Their latest album Prog, (Do The Maths Label) was released in 2007.

Rolling Stone have said of the band; “by any standard, jazz or otherwise, it is moving, mighty music . . . bad to the bone, hot players with hard-rock hearts”.

Soon to be performing at the Beck’s Music Box as part of the Perth International Arts Festival, Reid Anderson spoke to Australian Stage's Anna Locke whilst in Barcelona.



The Bad PlusThe Bad Plus is coming to Australia as part of the Perth International Arts Festival. Is this your first time to Australia?
Yes, it will be our first time.

Are you going to get a chance to see Australia whilst you are here?
Well it’s going to be pretty quick, but I think we’ll have a couple of days off in between shows. We’re going to see as much as we can, everyone we know who has been there has great things to say.

That’s always nice to know!

When people ask, how do you describe the music of The Bad Plus?

Oh boy! I should have a well rehearsed answer to this question by now, but, really it’s... I guess you can say that it is jazz. The instrumentation is definitely from jazz and we’re three musicians who play jazz. We’re improvisers...

We are three people, three individual musicians who have a really wide variety of influences and tastes and we meet in the middle with jazz.

The band is an acoustic bass, drums and piano, and so the instrumentation is definitely coming from a jazz bass but the music itself is very open and influenced by a lot of things you know, including rock, classical music, electronic music. So it’s very open ended.

You’ve got a new album out entitled Prog. Tell me about the music - are we going to be hearing it in your show?
You’ll definitely hear some things from the new record, but also hear newer material that we’ve been working on. We just try to... give a good variety of things rather than playing the same show all the time.

The three of you originally met in your teens, but didn’t form The Bad Plus until 2000. What brought you back together?
Well it was just the fact that we were fans of each other really. Ethan and I were in New York, often playing together and in each others bands. And Dave in Minneapolis, he was doing some really amazing things. We were just friends and thought you know, we should give this a shot.

You tour quite extensively according to your website. Do you ever get sick of one another?
(laughs) Well, it is a very intense thing to be on tour so much! You know, the truth is that we all deal with it incredibly well for people who are living in a bubble together for... about two thirds of the year.

But you know it’s like anything else, it’s kind of like a family really, to a certain point you’re beyond friends. You’re a family and you’re out doing this thing together.
{xtypo_quote_right}it’s kind of like a family really, to a certain point you’re beyond friends. You’re a family and you’re out doing this thing together.{/xtypo_quote_right}
One of the elements that brought The Bad Plus recognition is your cover versions. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was one of your first ones, you’ve got a couple on your new album. How do you choose these covers?
They are just songs that we like, that we feel for some reason that we can do something with, that they can become our music... They also have to be something that has a really strong identity in the first place because we really push them around quite a bit.

So they have to be something that the listener can connect with that is still that song even though these other things are going on.

Reid, on a personal level, were you always interested in the Double Bass?
I played different instruments growing up as a kid, and I started playing electric bass in rock bands at high school, but the music I was listening to really drew me to the acoustic bass and the sound of it, and the way it functions in music and in jazz, so that’s why I play that.

But I’m still interested in many other things, I’m really passionate about electronic music and we all play piano in the band.

You studied classical music at university. Why the switch to jazz full time?
When I went to university I didn’t really know what I was getting into in terms of playing classical music! It’s great, I’m glad I did it. It really opened up my eyes and my mind to a lot of great music, but when I started playing I wanted to play jazz and that kind of remains true.

So there was a certain bit where I just said well, I’m going to commit myself to being a jazz musician... really it’s important to me to be a creative musician, and I just saw that jazz is my path to that.

You compose as well – you all do. Do you write only for The Bad Plus?
We all occasionally do other things and write other music, but since The Bad Plus is our full time job a lot of the music we write does go to the band.

People always ask about musical influences, which often change. Who are your musical influences at the moment?
At the moment, gosh, that is such a hard question these days! I think I can just throw out a couple of names like... Jane Birkin... gosh I don’t know. My iPod is so full of such a variety of things.

To be honest I haven’t been listening to a lot of music in the last couple of weeks because I’ve been on vacation and kind of clearing my head and working on my own music.

Do you have musical influences that have stayed with you for a long time?
Definitely yeah. I think the three of us, in terms of where we meet in jazz we would all give a similar answer to that as far as people like Ornette Coleman, Keith Jarrett and Paul Motion and Charlie Haden, John Coltrane. You know like the great classic jazz of course. 

But things like certain rock bands, I still listen to The Police, Led Zeppelin things like that, as well as classical music and so forth.

I read that you play a ¾ bass, is that correct?
Well, that is correct, but in bass terminology, ¾ bass is a standard size. No one plays a full size bass. I don’t even know why it’s that’s way.

How many basses to you have?
Only one actually.

So you just protect that with your life then?
(laughs) I try. It’s been broken a few times.


The Bad Plus perform at the Beck’s Music Box, Tuesday 26th February @ 8:30pm Bookings 08) 9484 1133. For further information: www.perthfestival.com.au


Top Right - The Bad Plus. Photo - Mike Dvorak

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