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Happy Apple: Hometown Homeboys

Happy Apple, L to R: Erik Fratzke, David King and Michael Lewis

It’s hard to picture a band more grassroots than Happy Apple. Drummer David King, electric bassist Erik Fratzke and saxophonist Michael Lewis hail from Minneapolis, in the verdant northern Midwest, far from the concrete jungles where hard-hitting jazz musicians tend to congregate. “The stigma of improvising groups outside New York is that they’re jam-bandy,” King notes. “We would kind of use that. We’d roll into town and not much would be expected of us. Then we’d just really throw down. We always felt we could hang anywhere. But we decided to stay outside the New York system in order to commit to each other.”

Many know King as the drummer in another acclaimed trio, the Bad Plus. Happy Apple, in fact, gave the Bad Plus its initial inspiration. At those storied Happy Apple gigs in New York, one could always find future Plussers Ethan Iverson and Reid Anderson, King’s old friends and fellow Midwesterners, navigating the notoriously difficult New York music scene. “They were frustrated about keeping bands together,” King recalls, “and they saw that what Happy Apple did was a conscious choice, to commit to a sound and create something new. The ideology of both bands is identical: bring the music out there with no charts and throw down; try to connect.”

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