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The Bad Plus: Drama, Joy, Humor, But Not Irony

By Published: September 17, 2007
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Band Growth and Not Taking It For Granted

AAJ: Well, I have to tell you, on a more general note, that you don't sound very bored by playing in this band.

DK: No [laughing], it's exciting. And honestly, it's great to have anyone interested in what you're doing. We're all in our mid-thirties; we didn't just come out of nowhere. We spent fifteen years pounding out there, making records. So to have people call on the phone and ask about the music is a real gift, and none of us take it for granted. We know it can be taken away at any time. We're not these guys who were just handed shit. We all appreciate the chance to do this. It's exciting to be able to roll into cities and play your music. That's the dream.

AAJ: After all this time together, is there any dynamic of the band that is changing. Is there anything you do that's different from, say, the way you did it in 2003?

DK: I think so. We've been able to chart the growth of the band musically, professionally, and in every other way. I think because we play so much on the road, our language is that much more solidified. We've played together on and off since our teens, but never in as focused a way as we have since 2002. We started the band in 2000, but it was just a very roughshod beginning—we were trying to book concerts in New York, do whatever kind of touring we could, and be in Minneapolis too.

l:r: Ethan Iverson, Reid Anderson, David King

I would say that dynamically, we are so much more able to possess different colors. We're able to play more articulately loudly and more articulately softly. I think that's one of the ways that this record documents the growth of the band—I think this one really represents the last four years of touring. All the records seem to keep moving in this way where we're honing our concept—and we believe that concept is our own. We're confident that we do something that is different. We're not confident that it's great all the time; we're not confident that everyone should dig it. But we are confident that it's us, that it's a recognizable sound. That's a great victory, and we're not willing to let that go. We want that to keep growing.

And we want to keep expanding compositionally. Remember, we have three people writing in the band, so there are all these weapons that we have. It's a leaderless trio with three composers, three alpha personalities that battle for position—and that's where that energy comes from. But it's a high-functioning thing; we've been friends for so long that we're not friends because of the band, and that's what makes it so nice. Because at the end of the day, we're friends first—we were friends way before The Bad Plus. The Bad Plus isn't a reason for us to stay friends.

AAJ: There are a lot of bands who are not in that situation. And I've seen how those bands act at sound check.

DK: Oh, exactly! This is easily the highest-functioning band I've ever been a part of. At the end of the day, it's that history that we have. We don't have an agenda against each other. We know that it's a delicate chemistry that makes this thing happen, and we have to trust each other and allow each other room. And then it just happens. We get onstage and it works somehow.

Selected Discography

The Bad Plus, Prog (Do the Math/Heads Up International, 2007)
The Bad Plus, Blunt Object: Live in Tokyo (Columbia, 2005)
The Bad Plus, Suspicious Activity? (Columbia, 2005)
The Bad Plus, Give (Columbia, 2004)
The Bad Plus, These Are the Vistas (Columbia, 2003)
The Bad Plus, Authorized Bootleg (Self-released, 2001)
The Bad Plus, The Bad Plus (Fresh Sound New Talent, 2001)

Photo Credits
Top Group Photo: Courtesy of Heads Up International
Bottom Group Photo: Courtesy of AAJ Visual Arts Gallery
David King (drums) Photo: Juan-Carlos Hernandez
Ethan Iverson (piano) Photo: Eduard Markovich
Reid Anderson (bass) Photo: Courtesy of AAJ Visual Arts Gallery

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