Described by Rolling Stone as “about as badass as highbrow gets”, avant garde jazz trio The Bad Plus arrive in Ireland next week for a series of shows. This tour will see them presenting the multi-media show On Sacred Ground, based around Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, the famed ballet that caused a riot on its premiere, opened the door to 20th Century music and animated Disney’s Fantasia. State spoke to the band’s Ethan Iverson.
Who are you and where are you from?
The three of us share a common ‘tribal language’. Growing up, we drank the same economy-size Mountain Dew from SuperAmerica, saw the same bad movies on Channel Nine, heard the same great rock radio on KQRS, and learned about jazz from going to the Dakota Jazz Club in St. Paul. This Midwestern heritage is not as obviously deep as that of, say, New Orleans or Senegal, but it has its own twisted charm. The first time TBP played together, we were not called The Bad Plus. We were just teenagers trying to play jazz standards in the living room of Reid Anderson’s family house in Golden Valley, Minnesota. Reid and David King had been best friends since the age of thirteen. I was younger by two years and had met Reid when he went to college in Wisconsin. When Reid put us together in his mother’s house that day in 1990 – well, let’s just say the results were less than magical. We would have been shocked had you told us that fifteen years later we would be a full-time band.
Who are your favourite artists from your hometown?
Prince! Husker Du, the unsung drummer Eric Gravatt.
What’s it really like touring?
You don’t get to see much! Just the airport, the hotel, and the venue. The best thing is when you get to eat local.
What’s your favourite city/town/venue to play?
Minneapolis, New York, London, Paris, Dublin…many more.
What’s your ideal festival line-up?
It’s all about how much the audience digs what’s going on. Hopefully there aren’t too many bands or stages, so that everyone has enough concentration.
What has been your biggest achievement of the last year?
We premiered our arrangement of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. That was a real accomplishment, and we will be touring it in Ireland.
What do you do to relax?
Watch movies and TV; exercise.
What are you reading?
A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan.
How about TV, anything good on the box?
Buffy, The Wire, Breaking Bad. Sometimes old Columbo episodes!
What’s the last thing you bought online?
Gear, CDs, books…
Who would you most like to collaborate with if you got the chance?
We’ve talked about trying to wrangle in Ornette Coleman…
What is the worst cover your band has ever performed?
‘Don’t Fear the Reaper’.
What website do you visit most?
Do The Math, the blog of pianist Ethan Iverson 😉
What is your favourite…
…album of the last year?
Blue Soliloquy by Sam Newsome.
‘The Long Goodbye’ by John Williams
….lost classic song?
‘Nothing to Lose’ by Henri Mancini
… record label?
TBP loves Portishead, their last album was great.
Jeez, not sure about a new video — is it ok to say we watched this recently?
A new artist that you are most excited about?
What was the last great gig you went to?
Bill McHenry with Orrin Evans, Eric Revis, and Andrew Cyrille.
What should we expect from your Irish shows?
The Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky.
The Bad Plus play Mandela Hall, Belfast (25th May), National Concert Hall, Dublin (26th), Hawkswell, Sligo (27th), Riverbank, Kildare (29th), Belltable Arts Centre, Limerick (30th), Triskel Christchurch, Cork (31st)