On April 9, the Philadelphia-based pianist Orrin Evans tweeted, “I have so much to say but I’ll wait until tomorrow :)!!” What was he about to announce? A new album? A teaching position? Turns out it was something few in the jazz community could have anticipated. The following day, it was revealed that, starting in 2018, Evans would be the new pianist in the Bad Plus, the era-defining left-of-center jazz trio that has been kicking since 2000. The Bad Plus as we know it, beloved for its dramatic, emotive original music and inspired rock and pop covers, is scheduled for demolition. In search of inspiration elsewhere, and due in part to well-hidden tensions within the ensemble, pianist Ethan Iverson will play his last hit with drummer Dave King and bassist Reid Anderson at the Village Vanguard on New Year’s Eve.
Though any pianist switching in for Iverson would at first seem like a strange choice—the Bad Plus’ sound is so solidified at this point that removing any of the three voices might render the group unrecognizable—the decision to bring in Evans, 42, shouldn’t be a shocker. For one thing, he’d already played with members of the group when the initial phone call came earlier this year. Evans, whose playing is soulful and robust, and Iverson, who skews wry and postmodern, have performed as a two-piano duo, and Evans and Anderson, especially, have enjoyed a long relationship. They first met when the bassist was attending college in Philadelphia and Evans hadn’t yet graduated from high school. Anderson later appeared on Evans’ 2000 album Listen to the Band. “I really don’t feel like I’m walking into a strange or foreign environment,” Evans says the day after the announcement. “I’m just walking into a new one, because I know these gentlemen, and they’re people I can consider friends and family.”