With all the talk of 2011, this show counts down to 2010 — to 10 years of The Bad Plus and 75 years of live music at the Village Vanguard in New York's Greenwich Village. WBGO's emcee Josh Jackson and stage manager Alex W. Rodriguez are ringside. Ethan Iverson on piano, Reid Anderson on bass and Dave King at the drums are poised and ready to play from now until midnight and beyond.
The Bad Plus was born in the Twin Cities a decade ago. By their estimate, these guys have played around 160 shows a year for many years. They make the trio a priority, and no one sends a sub to a Bad Plus gig.
Reid Anderson's big bass sound grounds the group, and his melodic compositions give it wings. Anderson's first love was progressive rock. Later he discovered jazz.
In March 2010, The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis staged a Dave King celebration, called King for Two Days. On the first day, The Bad Plus and another of Dave's bands, Happy Apple, came together as The Bad Apple.
And Ethan Iverson, born in Menomonie, Wis., is simply one of the best jazz pianists of his generation. Prior to The Bad Plus, he was the musical director of the acclaimed Mark Morris Dance Group. There is fascinating stuff on Iverson's blog, Do The Math.
In his intro, Jackson looks forward to a harmolodic piece, a 20th-century classical piece, and "a Scottish folk melody at midnight." (Ornette Coleman's "Song X" into Gyorgy Ligeti's "Metal" are available as web extras.) And the full set puts the pieces in the context of TBP originals -– strong pieces on the short side, anthem-like at times or enigmatic, with a quasi-mythical twist. I've become attached to "Bill Hickman at Home," named for a Hollywood stuntman, and seeming to imply that at home Hickman takes life easy.
The Bad Plus' latest album is titled Never Stop. Christmas week, they play the Dakota in Minneapolis, followed by New Year's at the Vanguard and the first week of January at the Jazz Bistro in St. Louis. That's two gigs on the Mississippi and one near the Hudson. It's an annual early-winter pilgrimage.
Ethan Iverson, piano; Reid Anderson, bass; Dave King, drums.
On-site mix by David Tallacksen of WBGO, with Steven Weiss, assistant. Surround Sound mix by Duke Markos.