Preview: The Bad Plus jazz trio has found more of its own identity since breaking out with covers

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Reid Anderson notes that what often passes for jazz "groups" comprise a leader and sidemen.

The Bad Plus, a 12-year-old acoustic piano-bass-drums trio formed in Minneapolis and appearing this weekend at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild's Jazz Hall, doesn't fit that custom.

"We have a band mentality -- in jazz, things have gotten so far the way of individual virtuosity," the bassist says. [In Bad Plus] "no one's backing someone else; [we] all own that expression as opposed to the 'So-and-So Trio' when you have two sidemen."

The Bad Plus, which also includes pianist Ethan Iverson and drummer David King, the latter a friend of Mr. Anderson's from junior high school, worked together off and on since 1989 but officially formed in 2000 after only three gigs.

'The Bad Plus'

Where: Manchester Craftsmen's Guild, North Side.

When: 7 and 9:30 p.m. Saturday.

Tickets: $45; 412-322-0800 or

"We had something that we felt was personal, in a place where we could collectively express ourselves," Mr. Anderson says.

The name, he says, "is just a made-up name David King came up with. We felt it was important to have a name because we believe in group music and a group identity."

They probably could never have formed a traditional jazz trio anyway, as "Dave and I grew up listening to rock music -- the '80s were our formative years," Mr. Anderson says. "We're well-known for doing covers of rock music [as part of a] non-standard jazz repertoire," recording tunes originally performed by Nirvana, Tears for Fears, Blondie and other pop artists.

These days, however, "Our music is increasingly our own compositions -- we all write individually, [the material is] already complete in content and concept" by the time the tunes are brought in, he says. "It takes on a life of its own when the three of us start playing it together. We do whatever we feel makes the music best, but the composer has final say, but we don't have much difference of opinion on that kind of stuff."

He noted that the group's music also is influenced by jazz titans John Coltrane, Charlie Haden, Ornette Coleman and Paul Motian.

The Bad Plus released its most recent album, "Made Possible," last year. It represents a departure from its normal all-acoustic sound in that it incorporates synthesizers and electronic drum sounds.

However, "When we perform live, we don't bring the electronics with us," Mr. Anderson says. "We just see the studio album as one thing and a live performance as another; we don't feel we have to replicate the album in a live performance. Our concerts are always a combination of new music and older music, but we'll definitely play a lot of music from the new record."


Rick Nowlin: or 412-263-3871. First Published January 31, 2013 5:00 AM


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