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A NATURAL PROG-RESSION

The Bad Plus shows a gentler side

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It’s common for jazz acts to interpret outside material, although songs by Black Sabbath, Nirvana, David Bowie and Tears for Fears are not typical choices.
Don’t tell that to The Bad Plus.

“It’s a great challenge for us to take that music and try and arrange it because there really is no school for it,” says drummer David King. “We are one of many, many jazz artists who interpret other music — it’s just that most of them don’t tackle the disparate influences that we do.”

Since 2003’s These Are the Vistas, the band’s debut CD, The Bad Plus has included at least one cover song on each of its studio albums. Prog, released in May via the group’s own Do the Math label, features four covers and opens with a rendition of the Tears for Fears hit “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.”

Starting the album with something as mellow as that song, says King, was part of a larger band objective — to show “a gentler side” that The Bad Plus always had but, by choice, hadn’t really captured on an album.

King credits producer/engineer Tony Platt and his “natural approach to recording” with playing a big part in achieving the goal.

“We had no discussions about the way we played,” recalls King. “The way we play is quite dynamic, and he wanted to capture that. He didn’t want to have flat, bold mixes on everything.”

Engineers usually don’t discuss their recording techniques, and Platt was no exception, according to King — although a look from Platt while he miked King’s drums did speak volumes.

“He put an extra mike right by the rim of the snare,” says King. “[As he did it], he looked at me, smiling — it was one of his secrets. It was a deep technique. . . . he searched for how to get that tone and got it for me.”

— By Chris M. Junior