Our bloggy, jazzy radio friend out in San Diego, Vince Outlaw, is interviewing both Dave King (7:15 PM Pacific) from The Bad Plus and Lizz Wright (6:15 PM Pacific), live on The New Jazz Thing tonight on KSDS.
The Bad Plus has a cool new CD out on Columbia called These Are the Vistas. Here’s a bit of their bio from the trio’s website:
- The Bad Plus is comprised of bassist Reid Anderson, pianist Ethan Iverson, and drummer David King, three post-modern jazz iconoclasts who combine keen wit, dynamic musical contrasts, and an original sensibility in what’s been called “the loudest piano trio ever.” Drawing inspiration from the worlds of dance, pop, and rock, The Bad Plus gracefully avoid the stigma of “fusion,” instead deconstructing their influences in a steadfastly pure jazz idiom all their own.
Anderson, Iverson, and King originally hail from Minnesota (Reid and David) and Wisconsin (Ethan), speaking (and playing) as though of one voice, calling themselves “three best friends with a mission.” And the mission, according to the band, is to create “a party, a vigil, an attack craft, a landmass.” Anderson and Iverson (who’s also worked as musical director for the world-renowned modern dance ensemble the Mark Morris Dance Group) currently in live New York with King remaining in Minneapolis.
The roots of The Bad Plus date back to circa 1984 when Dave first heard Reid sing in a junior high school rock band showcase. By 1989 or so, Reid and Ethan were playing amateur free jazz in various restaurants in America’s Dairy Land. 1990 marks Dave, Reid and Ethan’s inauspicious first musical encounter. In 2000, technically the last year of the old century, “the stars align and The Bad Plus reduces, congeals and solidifies.” The initial result was the group’s eponymous debut album, released on Fresh Sound, a Spanish independent label, in August 2001. A 2002 performance at New York’s Village Vanguard led The Bad Plus into a relationship with Columbia Records.
With These Are The Vistas, the group’s major label debut, The Bad Plus unveil original compositions from each band member and newly-recorded versions of three of their trademark “deconstructions” of classic pop: an elegiac wraithlike “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” a mayhem-riddled “Heart of Glass,” and a startling rendition of Aphex Twin’s “Flim” showcasing both a surgical precision and a rhythmic abandon. When it comes time to select and arrange cover tunes, “We consult an oracle, then duke it out together. We think you should only be limited by imagination, not by style.” Referring to the Stephen Collier paintings which serve as cover art and visual analog for These Are The Vistas, they remark, “‘Robonaut'” is sad and lonely.’ ‘Binary Unit’ is happy and bright. ‘Ord’ is dark, strong and immoveable.”
The group’s originals run an equally disparate gamut. “A roaring smorgasbord of rhythms and sections,” “Big Eater” was written for Dave by Reid while “Keep the Bugs Off Your Glass and the Bears Off Your Ass” was penned “for truckers everywhere.” Where “Everywhere You Turn,” “a circle expands from melancholy to hope,” “Boo-Wah” evokes an apocalyptic 4H club: “hectic, humorous, heroic, harrowing.”
“We are all guilty of something,” confess the members of The Bad Plus. Their song, “Guilty,” “is a blues: the city, the jungle, the cement, the soil, the whiskey, the rain, the jeans, the nude.”
For These Are The Vistas, The Bad Plus recruited the equally unorthodox Tchad Blake as producer. A member of the Latin Playboys, Blake, who earned two Grammys — Best Rock Album and Best Engineered Album – Non-Classical — for his work on Sheryl Crow’s The Globe Sessions, created a signature experimental sound on records by Peter Gabriel, Pearl Jam, Suzanne Vega, Los Lobos, Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, and many others. These Are The Vistas is Blake’s first jazz production and the result redraws the boundaries of the genre, creating an aural soundscape of vivid detail and astounding clarity. “He’s a genius,” The Bad Plus comment vis-à-vis their producer. “We were huge fans before we met him. We trusted him completely with our sounds and he delivered the most beautiful tones. We’re still glowing from his energy and mastery.”
- Vocalist Lizz Wright delivers a sultry R&B performance that’s divinely layered in gospel and jazz, and keenly similar to the work of Oleta Adams and Jill Scott. Wright was born in early 1980 in the Georgia town of Hahira, and her musical tastes blossomed early on. Her father served as the pianist and musical director at the local church, and he encouraged his daughter to absorb the soulful dispositions of classic hymns. Eventually, blues and jazz were added to Wright’s musical plate, and by high school she was earning awards in countless choir competitions. Wright was coming into her warm, smooth singing voice, so her decision to attend Georgia State in Atlanta to study voice at a professional level wasn’t surprising. Atlanta became her home and her voice became her solace. In 2000, Wright joined the vocal quartet In the Spirit. The group was quickly hailed as the best jazz group in the city, motivating Wright to hone her craft all the more. Two years later, Verve inked Wright a deal. Her impressive singing style was captured on her debut, Salt, the following spring.