When Ethan Iverson talks about “the daily practice,” he is not referring to running scales at the keyboard or hashing out difficult scores to the ticking of a metronome. He uses the term much like a doctor or lawyer, to specify the exercise of a profession — or perhaps even to specify the perpetuation of a lifestyle. The pianist is best known as one of the three founding members of The Bad Plus (along with bassist Reid Anderson and drummer David King), an avant-garde jazz trio that first turned heads when it landed a major-label deal in the early 2000s. The group continues generating media interest from sources as disparate as Rolling Stone and JazzTimes, largely because of its nontraditional approach to covers and its heavy-hitting, complex originals. The Bad Plus has its New Mexico debut at Albuquerque’s Outpost Performance Space, with sets on Thursday and Friday, May 1 and 2.
Despite the buzz surrounding the group’s recordings of songs like Radiohead’s “Karma Police” and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” The Bad Plus did not invent the concept of reinterpreting popular music. The very act of cultural merging and scavenging is fundamental to jazz, beginning with the appropriation of show tunes for their harmonic structures and the repurposing of their forms to serve as blueprints for improvisation. An example is Rodgers and Hart’s “My Funny Valentine,” composed for the 1937 musical Babes in Arms and since recorded by countless jazz luminaries, from Ella Fitzgerald and Miles Davis all the way up to The Bad Plus.
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