Thursday, January 29, 2009

Quick Chat with Ethan Iverson of The Bad Plus

photo by Mike Dvorak

Pianist Ethan Iversion, former musical director for Mark Morris Dance Group, is coming to Houston, along with bassist Reid Anderson and drummer David King of the famed category-defying jazz trio The Bad Plus. Known for their novel covers of such iconic songs as Tears for Fears' hit “Everyone Wants to Rule the World” and Nirvana's “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” the trio also produces an impressive body of original music. Iverson popped in via email for a fast chat before his Da Camera February 7th show at Cullen.

Dance Source Houston: Thanks for visiting with the Houston dance community. Can you give us a flash history of how you went from being Mark Morris' musical director to being a jazz rock star in The Bad Plus?

Ethan Iverson: Reid and Dave played music together in high school, and I met Reid when he was first-year college and I was still a junior in high school. This band goes back 20 years now! However, we didn't really play a gig until 2001, when it felt really great. I had always planned to leave Mark and pursue jazz full-time, and the two jobs overlapped smoothly.

DSH: How does your time with Morris inform the work you do now?

EI: Mark showed me a magnificent blend of high and low; I think The Bad Plus is in that tradition too. I always say: I didn't get to play with John Coltane, Charles Mingus or Miles Davis, but I did get to play for Mark Morris.

DSH: And how cool is that? Let's talk about covers. As dance people we know covers. We will be covering Giselle until eternity. I am continually amazed at the available space between a piece of choreography and the dancer who re-enacts it. As musicians do you see covering a song as a spacious event as well?

EI: Sure. I cover covers in detail in this blog post.

DSH: You are all composers as well. What's the creative farming process like over there?

EI: We all write separately and bring the pieces to be fed through the machine of the three of us.

DSH: Can you talk about the Houston show at Cullen?

EI: We are thrilled to be playing in an area we don't get to often enough.

DSH: Talk about your new release For All I Care with Wendy Lewis.

EI: Wendy is a Minnesota indie rock cult hero, and she was the perfect choice for our first collaboration. We believe in the power of song, and working with the human voice was just so logical!

DSH: What gives with the typewriter and will it be coming to Houston?

EI: Hah. I think we all have analog nostalgia these days. Sorry, just the laptops will be with us (but not on stage).

Da Camera of Houston presents The Bad Plus on Saturday, February 7, 2009 at 8:00 PM in the Cullen Theater, Wortham Theater Center. Call 713-524-5050 visit