Reid Anderson, bassist of The Bad Plus (centre in photo above, with Dave King and Ethan Iverson), whom I spoke to this afternoon while he was on a train heading southwards through upstate New York , has a specific reason to be looking foward to the final night of the group’s three-night residency: Saturday 20th in the stunning ultra-clear acoustic of Hall One of Kings Place. This gig will be the first time the band has ever shared a stage with Django Bates.
All three members of the band, Anderson told me, have known and admired Bates’ music for many years. Ethan Iverson has even interviewed Django Bates for BBC Jazz on 3 (transcript here). But Saturday 20th will be that unique occasion: a first musical meeting, when musicians are psyching each other out on stage.
The first night of the residency will be the trio, featuring tunes from their new CD (on EmArcy), Never Stop. The new CD is different from the others, in that there are no re-treatments of other music, all the tunes are originals. But the sheer range of material is impressive, and that in itself makes the album a compelling listen. With the Bad Plus, the band means each tune to haveits own character and personality, normally with a back-narrative.
A track which caught my curiosity on Never Stop was “Bill Hickman at Home.” On the album, this tune gives a prominent role to a very out-of-tune piano, on which Iverson seems to get have a particular affection for the sourest notes. Anderson explained that it was a spontaneous decision to use this piano- it happened to be in the studio. But the idea, the gag, fits completely with the variety, adapatability and eclecticism that define The Bad Plus’s musical identity.
Anderson explained to me that a lot of what thegroup does has a “cinematic intention.” Bill Hickman, as car stuntman on some of Hollywood’s iconic films is part of their cultural heritage. And yet he was known as a loner and recluse. The “intimate, saloon-bar, raggedy feel” seemed to go with the territory. Another interesting character is Beryl, the awkward high school girl in the frantically but infectiously energetic “Beryl Loves to Dance.”
The second night here at Kings Place will see the band sharing the stage with Wendy Lewis, with whom they recorded the album For All I Care (Heads Up International ) in 2008, with tunes including Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb.”
I asked Anderson about the fortieth birthday which he celebrated three weeks ago. Apart from it having been a good excuse for a party, it seems something he takes in his stride: “It certainly isn’t weighing heavily on me.” The collective momentum behind the band is very powerful indeed,as it has been since they started. There is such a strong, shared purpose, “we believe in doing it our own way.”
I also talked to Tony Platt, who produced the CD “Prog,” today. He told me that he likes to explain what The Bad Plus do like this:
“They’re like the Marx Brothers. One of them starts a gag. They pass it on to each other. Then they all get together for the punchline. There isn’t any sense of competition. They don’t out-jazz or out-anything each other.”
It’s that cinematic theme again. “We like Tony’s description.” Anderson told me.
People scanning the listings for highlights of the 2010 London Jazz Festival, then these three gigs in Kings Place Hall One should already be on the short-list.
An in-depth review of Never Stop by Pamela Espeland is HERE