Formed: 1990 in Minnesota
Styles: Post-Rock/ Experimental, Post-Bop
Are the Bad Plus a pop- and rock-influenced jazz trio? Or are they a power trio who like to play jazz? It's really a bit of both. But in the brave new world of postmodern jazz, identity crises are encouraged. Reid Anderson (bass) and David King (drums) grew up in Minnesota, while pianist Ethan Iverson spent his formative years in Wisconsin. Eventually, after crossing paths in such unlikely places as high school rock showcases and tentative free jazz performances inside upper-Midwestern diners, the three first performed as the Bad Plus in 1990; but they would spend the '90s embracing separate influences, each musician developing a unique musical language that would gestate into the Bad Plus' iconoclastic jazz template. Anderson released three albums on the Spanish indie Fresh Sound; Iverson was music director of New York City's prestigious Mark Morris Dance Group; and King worked with his Happy Apple combo, as well as 12 Rods.
In August of 2001, the trio put aside their other projects and released The Bad Plus through Fresh Sound. It established them as a group unafraid to stray from the confines of jazz, but confident enough in their forays to make them stimulating, and not simply novelties. The debut was a critical success, garnering best-of honors from the New York Times and Chicago Reader, among others. An "official" bootleg followed in 2002, eventually going out of print. It was a particularly memorable performance at New York's Village Vanguard that led Columbia Records to sign the Bad Plus; in February of 2003, the label released These Are the Vistas which was produced by stranger-to-jazz and ex-Latin Playboy Tchad Blake. The album presented original compositions from each musician, as well as a few ringers from the musical world outside the borders of jazz. Their re-imaginations of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (which Iverson had reportedly never heard before), Blondie's "Heart of Glass," and Aphex Twin's "Flim" caused tails to wag, but it was the trio's powerful mixture of personality and performance that really defined them. The Bad Plus toured throughout spring and summer 2003 in support of their major-label debut. The band's second album, Give followed in spring 2004. For 2005's Suspicious Activity?, the band produced with album with Tchad Blake at RealWorld Studios in England. PROG followed in 2007.
- Johnny Loftus (All Music Guide)