After 17 years with pianist Ethan Iverson, Orrin Evans made his Seattle debut with The Bad Plus to sold out shows. Stopping by for a live session at the KNKX studios, it was clear that the moods of bassist Reid Anderson and drummer Dave King had improved for the better, and their playing showed it.
Without going into details, King noted that the last Bad Plus album with Iverson was titled “It’s Hard.” The trio’s first release with Evans had already been recorded when they last visited Seattle, but another year passed before their recent return to the Northwest to show off the new live sound.
In keeping with the all originals album “Never Stop,” the new album’s title puts their fans on notice that it’s all about the band. The new semi-sequel, “Never Stop II,” was released before the new lineup had even played a live gig, but you could already hear they were onto something good.
Fans of The Bad Plus had to be curious, and maybe concerned that the sound of the trio would change with a new lineup. Hearing them perform live, I can say any concern was unfounded. Evans fits into the sound of the band perfectly, while making a pair of important, if subtle, changes.
First, Evans has his own distinct voice on the piano. From Philadelphia, he possesses an instinctive sense of soul, but his virtuosic technique allows him to speak in his musical voice within the groove-rocking pulse and off-kilter constructs of The Bad Plus.
Second, it’s clear that Anderson and King are having a great time playing with Evans. Broad smiles beamed from both in our studios, as they interacted on a song from each of these talented composers. Considering the band’s commitment to teamwork, the joyful feeling between these three players drives each to exhilarating heights.
Expectations were high for this new edition of an iconic group, and Evans told us that his nerves were so tense he doesn’t remember his live debut with The Bad Plus a year ago. It’s clear, 13 months later, that this band is still worthy of their iconic status, and the fun they’re having on stage is contagious. Just listen.