Thirty-five bucks is a steep ticket price for a jazz band. So when I reserved my tickets for last night's Bad Plus show at the Dakota, I asked to be seated near the stage. I didn't realize that would mean I'd be practically on the stage. I'm pretty sure I had the best seat in the house—against the curtain that divides the Dakota in half, table abutted against the stage, seated immediately behind the pianist, Ethan Iverson, staring dead-on at the drummer, David King, and peering through the baby grand piano's lid at bassist Reid Anderson.
All three band members are from the Midwest, though only King currently lives here. Anderson resides in Barcelona and Iverson in New York. The trio rehearse at soundchecks—which are often, since the band tours continually. And for the seventh year in a row, the rockin' jazz group played its post-Christmas Dakota gig. Last night was the last of the three-night stint—I caught the first of two sets.
From my vantage point, I could see how much these band members look to one another both for timekeeping and also to show their appreciation when one of them played something extraordinary—which, in my opinion, happened often. When Iverson got so into his playing during Ornette Coleman's "Street Woman" that he jumped up from his piano bench, his bandmates darted their eyes toward him and grinned. There were lots of smiles in the audience as well.
The band opened with "Do Your Sums, Die Like a Dog, Play for Home." They played it as a long and winding, almost symphonic tune, making it loud and full. They also played Anderson's ballad "Lost of Love," off their album Suspicious Activity?, King's "Thrift Store Jewelry," Iverson's "Casa Particular," David Bowie's "Life on Mars?" and closed the set with King's "1980 World Champion," a song they recorded for their upcoming album.
When Iverson introduced Bowie's song, and noted that there is, in fact, life on Mars, King cracked up. Then they got serious. The song's long, soft ballad led up to a loud crescendo, with drummer King and pianist Iverson both banging away so fiercely and so in sync that they both kept standing up.
You could feel the standing ovation coming (which preceded the encore, "Flim," off the band's These Are the Vistas). I only wished I'd shelled out another $35 for the second set.