Minneapolis piano trio pioneers The Bad Plus have announced, after a seemingly unshakeable alliance for the last 17 years together, that pianist Ethan Iverson is to leave the group at the end of 2017. Breaking the shock news via their Facebook page, the group stated: "As of January 1, 2018, The Bad Plus will consist of founding members Reid Anderson (bass) and Dave King (drums) and new member Orrin Evans (piano). Original pianist Ethan Iverson will finish out the 2017 touring schedule in support of the album It's Hard, culminating in a New Year's Eve gig at the Village Vanguard in New York City."
While the trio has remained intact over a gruelling 150-gigs-a-year schedule, the band has embraced collaboration as part of their consistent run of albums – most recently recording and touring extensively with star saxophonist Joshua Redman. They've also previously worked with vocalist Wendy Lewis, and guitarists Bill Frisell and Kurt Rosenwinkel. It's the latter guitarist that links new recruit Evans and The Bad Plus, the pianist collaborating with Rosenwinkel and Kevin Eubanks on his latest solo album Knowing Is Half The Battle.
Evans is an increasingly prominent and highly imaginative post-bop player, distinguishing himself as a prolific solo artist and bandleader, with his large ensemble, Captain Black Big Band, edgy trio Tarbaby (with bassist Eric Revis and drummer Nasheet Waits) while his own albums have featured such luminaries as Christian McBride, Karriem Riggins and JD Allen among many others. Reporting on the split for WBGO.org, Nate Chinen cites various personal differences between Iverson, Reid and King – with the drummer stating that Iverson's increasingly prominent role of jazz critic on his high-profile Do The Math website, was affecting the group as well as a disconnection with the band's bassist, which had led to the decision for Iverson to leave.
Iverson is already getting busy with new projects including a duo album with saxophonist Mark Turner, plus a live recording with trumpeter Tom Harrell set for a possible release, while his work with the Mark Morris Dance Company, and their piece Pepperland, will be featured as part of the celebrations around the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ iconic album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The work will be premiered at the Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool on 25-27 May.
Commenting on the first time he played with Evans at a rehearsal session in Brooklyn, King stated: "The second he started playing one of Reid's tunes, the sound just exploded out of the instrument. And we needed that: to say, 'You know what? This music is alive.' When it's inhabited by someone who is excited to be there. It just crushed." The band plan to record later this summer with the new line-up, while Iverson will continue to play with them live, the symbolic final date set to take place on New Year's Eve at the Village Vanguard. The new line-up will start playing live in early 2018 with a new album to follow.
– Mike Flynn
– Photo credit of band with Evans: Tim Berne