Emotion and power at the Jazz Festival: The Bad Plus and Joshua Redman


Photo by Cameron Wittig

Anyone who has seen or heard The Bad Plus, can’t help but be impressed by the way the trio powers its way through tunes.

From the group’s original compositions to covers of pop songs like Tears For Fears’ “Everybody Wants To Rule The World,” pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson and drummer Dave King have put a distinctly modern stamp on the classic trio.

Indeed, the three musicians have made it clear that they’re a piano, bass and drums group, in which each has freedom to explore the nuances of the compositions they play with equal billing. They’ve shared the stage and the spotlight for a dozen years, when three old friends reunited to develop their shared sense of Midwestern musical sensibilities.

During a summer tour, the group is making room for an agile presence in saxophonist Joshua Redman, a forceful player. He’ll add a new dimension to The Bad Plus during a Twin Cities Jazz Festival performance on Saturday – one that could push the group more toward muscular bebop.

“He’s incredibly musical,” King said of Redman. “But he is a jock — and I mean that in the highest respect. He’s obviously an incredible listener. But he will go if you give him that space.

“We can give him that kind of hard bop thing that we’ve all done and love to do,” King said. “What’s also nice is we can sometimes provide interesting foils for that.”

The summer stage has been a long time in the making, and stems from the trio’s longstanding appreciation of Redman’s father, tenor saxophonist Dewey Redman, who performed in pianist Keith Jarrett’s American Quartet with drummer Paul Motian.

Iverson recorded with Dewey Redman in the early ’90s, and Anderson and King toured with the elder Redman in the United Kingdom in 2003.

The three musicians had shared a double billing with Joshua Redman at the Montreal Jazz Festival, but it wasn’t until last year that they played with him, in a 50th anniversary celebration for New York City’s famed Blue Note jazz club. They later shared the stage with him at Austria’s Saalfelden Jazz Festival – shows that helped spark interest Bad Plus shows with the saxophonist.

After a performance in the Toronto Jazz Festival last week, the musicians arrive in St. Paul for Saturday’s performance at the Mears Park main stage. Iverson said adding Redman adds spark to the show.

In Redman, concert-goers can expect to see The Bad Plus with an added melodic and improvisational voice. That makes the performance among the must-see shows for many Twin Cities musicians and fans.

“We just sit back and listen to him blow beautifully,” the pianist said. “In some ways, it does change our music into ‘jazz’ more than usual. But Josh is very open.”