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Coffee With… The Bad Plus

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Wednesday October 28, 2009

From Pulp Magazine
By John Tucker

Amplifier Magazine labeled them “the most distinctive three-piece outfit since Nirvana”; Rolling Stone called their sound “as badass as highbrow gets”; of course, I refer to Minnesota-born jazz outfit The Bad Plus. Making a name for themselves as the punk-rockers of traditional jazz (Hüsker Brübeck, if you will, although I suspect you won’t) by putting jazz spins on rock’s standards, their covers of Nirvana’s “Lithium” and Pixies’ “Velouria” are such a refreshing departure that they’re liable to make you forget the source material.

Their covers are almost as interesting as their original works, which take the form of beautifully-crafted – and often dizzyingly complex – attacks on the senses, that provide an easy way into real, honest-to-goodness jazz for people like me, e.g. people who typically imbibe music in two to three minute servings, and never really stray from the beaten path (and certainly never wander as far away from the path as the Bad Plus do). I was interested to see what kind of people square their sights on the punk-jazz market. I sat down with bassist Reid Anderson and drummer David King prior to their RNCM performance to pick the brains of modern jazz’s brightest sparks.

Making conversation with foreign musicians on the streets of Manchester is easy. With the Hacienda, the Ritz Ballroom, and the Factory Records office all within spitting distance (I hadn’t the heart to tell them what became of the Hacienda), the walk to the Cornerhouse – to make use of their cafe as an interview space – was more of a brief sightseeing tour for the duo, who expressed more than a passing interest in the notorious landmarks.

So where was pianist Ethan Iverson?

“He’s practicing,” revealed Dave, as he perched himself on one of the Cornerhouse’s miniscule leather pews. “It seems like he just practices this one piece we recorded two years ago. He still practices it several hours a day. We already recorded it, I don’t know what he’s trying to do. I think he wants to re-record it at some point.” This probably reveals more about Ethan than an interview would’ve.

At this juncture, Reid pulled the spoon from his espresso, ceasing the stirring momentarily to impart some worldly wisdom. “See this spoon? Just half of that with Nutella.”
“Oh yeah?”, enquired King. “That’s your new shit?”
“That’s my shit,” concluded Reid. Confused, I ask if the quiet bassist had taken to putting Nutella in his coffee. “No, no. It’s a little dessert. Just a little spoon like this, half of that with Nutella, a little bit of olive oil and some sea salt, it’s fantastic. You gotta try it.”

“It just seems so small, man.” David interjected, having clearly witnessed – possibly even tasted – this bizarre-sounding concoction. “You need about four or five of ‘em.” I had reservations, and questions. Would such a concoction even be sweet any more?

“It’s sweet, but the salt and olive oil… they’re distinctive flavours, but they go together quite well, I must say. Give it a shot.” He returns to his espresso, before a thought strikes him.

“You can always have another spoon if you want.”

Continue reading the interview here



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