The Bad Plus – Never Stop
Recorded in Minnesota, NEVER STOP does just what the title says. It’s a rapid-fire succession of engaging performances by three musical explorers operating as highly skilled individuals — bassist Reid Anderson, pianist Ethan Iverson and drummer David King — and as a seamless unit at the same time. NEVER STOP is a strictly instrumental affair and, as a result, is a 180º departure from the group’s previous release, For All I Care, which featured alt-rock vocalist Wendy Lewis on covers of rock classics, along with re-imaginings of 20th Century classical compositions by Stravinsky, Ligeti and Babbitt.
“We approached the recording of this album more like a jazz record from the ’50s or ’60s,” says King. “To eliminate studio separation as much as possible, I set up in the same room as Ethan, with Reid in plain sight. It created a really free atmosphere, as if we were playing a show.”
For the past 10 years The Bad Plus have created an uncompromising body of work by shattering musical convention. Rolling Stone called their amalgam of jazz, pop, rock and avant garde “about as badass as highbrow gets,” while The New York Times said the band is “better than anyone at mixing the sensibilities of post-’60s jazz and indie rock.” Few jazz groups in recent memory have amassed such acclaim, and few have generated as much controversy while audaciously bucking musical trends.
While the bulk of their output has been originals, they have famously deconstructed covers in the pop, rock, electronic and classical idioms. Their belief in a band ethos and “avant-garde populism” has placed them at the forefront of a new instrumental music movement, resulting in ever-larger audiences.
The threesome has been exchanging musical ideas since their teenage years. In the late ’80s, Anderson and King were two Minnesota high schoolers playing in fledgling rock bands and digging records by Coltrane and The Police. Anderson met Iverson in 1989. All three played together on one occasion a year later before going their separate ways for ten years.
They reconvened for a gig in Minneapolis in 2000. Sparks flew, studio sessions for an indie release ensued, and suddenly The New York Times called their maiden voyage one of the best releases of 2001. The band signed with Columbia, where they released These Are the Vistas in 2003, followed quickly by Give and then Suspicious Activity? In 2007 they released Prog, an album which balanced originals with spellbinding covers of Bowie, Bacharach, Tears for Fears and Rush. For All I Care, with its intriguing juxtaposition of rock and classical sensibilities, followed in 2009.
Ten years ago, not one of these musicians could have predicted where The Bad Plus was going, how long it would last, or what it might become along the way. What they were sure of, though, was a fierce sense of commitment that has blossomed into artistic success.
“We’ve always believed in our ideas,” says Anderson. ” We’ve always believed in making music that sounds like us, and we always thought there would be an audience for it.”
NEVER STOP showcases the band’s range as well as its three distinct personalities. From gentle and melodic to fierce and abstract, from swing to ’80s techno, NEVER STOP is the result of a group sound that embraces diversity as strength.