The Bad Plus is having a banner year highlighted by the release of their widely acclaimed 13 studio recording, NEVER STOP II. The first Bad Plus LP to feature pianist Orrin Evans alongside founding members Reid Anderson (bass) and Dave King (drums), NEVER STOP II is available now via Legbreaker Records.
Released January 19, NEVER STOP II has just been named to Rolling Stone's "50 Best Albums of 2018 So Far," which wrote, "Since forming in 2000, The Bad Plus have grown from upstart into institution, one of the few contemporary jazz acts to show up on the mainstream radar in the years before the TO PIMP A BUTTERFLY watershed," further nothing how tracks such as "Trace" and "Hurricane Birds" "epitomize the band's signature blend of poppy melodicism and proggy intricacy. On each, you can hear (pianist Orrin) Evans having a ball with the bassist's themes, savoring their tight contours while adding his own bluesy flourishes."
Indeed, Orrin Evans has proven one of 2018's most exciting new players, winning "Rising Star - Piano" in the just announced 66th Annual DownBeat International Critics Poll, while the group was recognized to be in the Top 5 of the "Jazz Group" category.
Long regarded as a visionary live act, The Bad Plus has spent much of the past year on the road celebrating NEVER STOP II. An array of international tour dates are scheduled in the coming months, including stops in London, Paris, Stockholm, and Green Bay, WI. Additional live dates will be unveiled soon - for updates and more, please log on to www.thebadplus.com/#tour-section.
Critical acclaim has greeted The Bad Plus at every stop, with The Chicago Tribune writing, "The show's best work raised hopes that as The Bad Plus evolves, it can be more jazz than pop, more art than entertainment...Ultimately, Evans and the band's two veterans seem to be building a new, common language, one influenced both by The Bad Plus' history and by Evans' individualistic response to it." The Washington Post praised the trio's "collective interplay," noting, "All three musicians worked closely to establish a groove and then embellish it - it was hard to tell at any point who was playing a solo."
What's more, NPR's "Jazz Night In America" recently followed the trio for a special documentary feature, The Bad Plus: The Band That Never Stops. The episode - which is highlighted by music from the band's "explosive set" at St. Louis, MO's Jazz at the Bistro earlier this year - is streaming now via NPR.
NEVER STOP II marks both a rebirth and also an affirmation between The Bad Plus enriching the trajectory of this 18-year-old band and its longstanding commitment to creative group improvised music. Upon the departure of original pianist Ethan Iverson, Anderson and King asked longtime friend Orrin Evans to join the band. Evans has been a vital contributor to the modern jazz landscape for more than 20 years with his solo projects and other groups.
"This band feels like family to me," says Evans. "The music has a lived-in quality because of the deep relationships between the band members, and I feel really comfortable within this democratic construct."
NEVER STOP II features four original compositions by Anderson, two by Evans, and two by King. Two additional bonus tracks written by Anderson are included on the digital download and CD editions.
NEVER STOP II, guided by longtime engineer Pete Rende, was tracked live in a New York City studio last September with no overdubs. The new lineup rehearsed over several months to prepare the new material and get a feel for improvising together. The resulting LP confirms Reid and Dave's idea that The Bad Plus could have a new life while retaining its democratic, leaderless group aesthetic - three composers, three identities, coming together under the umbrella of a band to create one unified sound.
"That, in essence, is the nature of The Bad Plus," says King. "When there is no leader and everyone has a personal responsibility to bring his full self to the table, no matter what the material, the resulting sound of commitment and open-hearted connection is realized. We have the chance now with Orrin to restate our message: there is no leader, there is only the music."
"We feel that Orrin is the perfect component to continue our solidarity," says Anderson, "and honor what the fans of this band have come to expect: a unique template for improvised music using acoustic instruments and equal voices."
NEVER STOP II was greeted with unanimous critical applause upon its release earlier this year. "The album couldn't sound more consistent with the core Bad Plus M.O.," declared Rolling Stone, "which has always been about putting distinctive, memorable songs first and letting them guide the band's exploratory, idiosyncratic improvisations." "The trio now enters the next chapter of its being," noted All About Jazz, and it seems the addition of Evans will be a step in the right direction for the group...These songs exemplify what many listeners have grown to love about the band over the past 17 years. The tunes on NEVER STOP II are well-written and earnest, showcasing a band listening and improvising with one another, affirming that the group has not yet run out of meaningful music to make." Perhaps NPR said it best: "No other band in the world sounds quite like this."