When The Bad Plus burst onto the global jazz scene 13 years ago, opinions were
somewhat divided about the nature of the trio’s output. There were the “jazz
police” brigade who staunchly protect the roots of the genre and who believe
that, as Irving Mills wrote and Duke Ellington played, “It don’t mean a thing if
it ain’t got that swing.” Then there were the members of the other camp who are
always looking to break new ground and believe that jazz should constantly
spread its ethnic wings and embrace contemporary energies. When The Bad Plus
bring their eclectic, go-withthe- flow musical offerings to the Reading 3 venue
in Tel Aviv on December 3, it is a sure bet that the audience will include jazz
fans of all ages and varying tastes.
While all three group members
display a love of all kinds of musical styles and mindsets – from Bach to punk
rock and much between – they are also proficient in the jazz idiom and its roots
and can swing as hard as the next jazz guy or gal. The threesome comprises
pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson who also lends his capable hands to
synthesizers and electronics, and powerhouse drummer David King.
makes no apologies for his and his pals’ multifarious approach to music and says
he has no time for the purists, adding that creativity requires input.
say that nothing is pure, and the quest for purity is futile,” he
“We are meant to mix and struggle and live.”
If that is
so, then King’s struggles began a long time ago. Now 43, he started drumming
more than 30 years ago and says he had a percussive nature from the word
“I have been playing drums since I was nine years old. I like to hit
things!” That may seem like an early start for a drummer, but King’s path to
musical exploration actually began a couple of years beforehand, and on a
different instrument, which he still plays today.
“I play piano, too,” he
notes, adding that his keyboard technique and sensibilities find their way into
his principal instrumental avenue of expression. “The piano was my first
instrument, and I think it informs me a lot.”
The band put out its first,
eponymous, album in 2001 and has released nine more since. The latest offering,
, came out last year and, no doubt, will form the core of the
band’s Tel Aviv gig.
Given their ages – they are all in their early 40s –
it is only natural that King, Iverson and Anderson should feed off the musical
zeitgeist of their era and, even when they are playing seemingly straight ahead
jazz, there is often a rock-oriented drive behind the sounds which, particularly
from King, exudes the sense of a somewhat visceral underbelly. King’s percussive
attack is front and center on all the tracks on Made Possible
, and there is even
some occasional electronic drum lacing.
When one thinks back to the
pioneers of modern jazz, such as envelope-pushing drummer Max Roach, who was
responsible for extricating the role of jazz drummer from that of the
traditional timekeeping anchor into a more melodic and polyrhythmic function,
one wonders how, for example, King’s electronic enhancements sit with that
mindset. The Bad Plus drummer says he isn’t doing anything that hasn’t been done
“I don’t play electronic drums much – only on two songs in The
Bad Plus’s history,” he notes. “I think it fits with the trajectory of creative
music just fine. [Now 71-year-old jazz drummer] Jack DeJohnette played
electronic pads on [avant-garde jazz pioneer] Ornette Coleman’s masterpiece
“Song X” in 1985, so I’m not doing anything that hasn’t been addressed long ago.
Drums are toolsfor music.”
The rock element in the trio’s art – whether
openly rhythmic or more in terms of spirit – is not an entirely new idea in the
jazz world. Swedish jazz trio E.S.T. began churning out decibels galore in 1993
and continued doing so to great effect until the untimely death of pianist-band
leader Esbjorn Svensson. King says that, despite some musical parallels, he and
his cohorts did not follow in their Swedish counterparts’ high energy
“I’ve never listened to E.S.T. but I’ve heard they were good,”
“We are part of the same generation, so it doesn’t surprise
me that we would be influenced by similar things.
I doubt the timeline of
our bands coincides with being influenced by each other. I think we were both
fully formed before we ever knew each other existed.”
Although The Bad
Plus was founded in 2000, all three members had shared the same creative space
for some time before that. They first played together in 1989 but were largely
otherwise individually engaged until they eventually got together on a regular
basis. King says they were always looking beyond their comfort zones and that
they share a rebellious streak.
“We grew up together and bonded over
being outsiders,” he says.
They have certainly constantly looked outside
the jazz standard domain for raw material. Over the years the band has recorded
versions of compositions from an eclectic range of sources that take in grunge
rock band Nirvana, English electronic music artist Aphex Twin, 1970s New York
punk outfit Blondie, Pink Floyd, 1980s English New Wave band Tears for Fears,
Queen, Black Sabbath and Stravinsky.
King says he has always kept his
ears open for any sounds, regardless of their genre definition.
listened to all kinds of music as a kid. All music is my calling – I hope!”
Iconic jazz drummer Paul Motian has also been an influence on King and his pals,
and Made Possible
closes with Motian’s “Victoria.”
“Paul had a big
influence on us, maybe the biggest. He influenced us to think modernly,” he
The Bad Plus gang has performed here several times in recent years,
playing at the main summer and smaller winter versions of the Red Sea Jazz
Festival in Eilat, and always an elicit enthused response.
Israeli audiences wonderful and big-hearted,” says King.For tickets: