The Bad Plus is one of a few innovative groups (including E.S.T. and Medeski, Martin & Wood) who have revitalized the piano-bass-drums trio in jazz. Pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson and drummer David King have known each other since they were teenagers in the Midwest. But other than one occasion in 1990, they did not play together as a trio until 2000 or even live in the same city. Iverson worked as the musical direction for the Mark Morris Dance Group and Anderson kept busy playing jazz in New York while King was a session player in Los Angeles who also worked with his Happy Apple and 12 Rods groups. In 2000 the trio came together to play a weekend at a Minneapolis club and it was obvious to them that the musical chemistry was magical. Soon they recorded their debut CD for Fresh Sound.
The group distinguished themselves from other trios by playing both originals and jazzy renditions of songs by the likes of Björk, Black Sabbath, Nirvana, ABBA, the Bee Gees, Queen, Blondie, David Bowie and others. Although playing jazz, they always had a rock-and-roll sensibility and they will never be mistaken for a quiet cocktail piano trio. Controversial and a bit of a sensation from the start, the Bad Plus signed with Columbia in 2002, giving them additional publicity. They helped introduce such songs as Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” and Aphex Twin’s “Flim” to jazz and have violated most stereotypes of what a jazz piano trio sounds like.