The Good and The Bad Plus

When I was invited to shoot an in-studio performance by The Bad Plus for NPR-affiliate KPLU in Seattle, Wash., I didn’t hesitate to accept. This is one of the most unique groups to emerge in the jazz genre in years. Describing it, in fact, forces one to retreat to a thesaurus.

The Bad Plus — bassist Reid Anderson, pianist Ethan Iverson, and drummer David King — is raucous, unexpected, often mind-bending music. Wendy Lewis, an indie-rock singer, joins them on their latest record, “For All I Know” on Heads Up. They are well known for their rock covers (Kurt Cobain’s “Lithium” is on the new disc), but that term really unfairly pigeon holes them.

This is Iverson, from his piano’s perspective:

Nikon D700, 200 mm f2.0 lens, ISO 2000, 1/320th at f2.0.

Nikon D700, 200 mm f2.0 lens, ISO 2000, 1/320th at f2.0.


KPLU aired the performance live, as well as recorded it for NPR, so obviously I couldn’t be in the studio — unless The Bad Plus wanted to incorporate the ratta-tat-tat of my shutter going off.

The room was small, but the musicians were spread out, so I focused on tight, candid portraits and detail shots. The room was dark, yet I could not set up remote flashes because of the performance, so I used a Nikon SB 900, bounced and diffused.

Iverson was the subject of the best shots:

Nikon D700, 200mm f2.0 lens, ISO 200, 1/320th at f2.0.

Nikon D700, 200mm f2.0 lens, ISO 200, 1/320th at f2.0.

Based on seeing this trio several times in concert, I expected drummer King to provide the most emotive shots. However, he was stuffed into a corner and maybe way more subdued because of it. He’s still an interesting picture:

Nikon D700, 200mm f2.0 lens, ISO 2000, 1/320th at f2.0.

Nikon D700, 200mm f2.0 lens, ISO 2000, 1/320th at f2.0.

A really upbeat bassist, so to speak, I almost could not catch Anderson not smiling:

Nikon D700, 200 mm f2.0 lens, ISO 2000, 1/320th at f2.0.

Nikon D700, 200 mm f2.0 lens, ISO 2000, 1/320th at f2.0.

It’s only a coincidence that every photo I chose for this post was made with the same body and settings. Obviously, it was a winning combination for Lewis as well:

Nikon D700, 200 mm f2.0 lens, ISO 2000, 1/320th at f2.0.

Nikon D700, 200 mm f2.0 lens, ISO 2000, 1/320th at f2.0.

I did use my D3 with a 12-24 f2.8 lens, but you’ll have to see those shots in the Soundslides presentation I’m putting together. I get to use a clip of my favorite tune, “Metal,” from the performance. How cool is that? I’ll post a link to the show when it gets posted.

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