Mama Jazz, the Vilnius’ most famous jazz festival, concluded the weekend with the American trio The Bad Plus – Dave King, Reid Anderson, and Orrin Evans. This ensemble combines the simplicity of popular music with snobbish jazz virtuosity. The full harmony of the three instruments (piano, double bass, and percussion) is revealed not only in the experimental and original works of the trio, but also in the remixes of bands such as Radiohead, Nirvana or Tears For Fears. A year and a half ago, the ensemble underwent major changes when a longtime trio pianist was replaced by Orrin Evans. We talk to the new pianist of the Bad Plus about his passion for music, dedication to the ensemble, and daily routine.
How do you prepare for concerts in your daily rhythm?
There is no separate preparation, as you prepare yourself constantly, live and practice, rehearsing with other members of the group and trying to get to know them as people. I am a musician, so it is simply my life. Every day I wake up thinking about music. While living in music, you don’t have to go to concert alone. In essence, I do nothing but play and do something good for my listeners. Not every time during the concert you feel ready because you do not feel connected to music or space, but I strive to find closeness and my own voice in each composition.
I do not think that this lifestyle causes me much difficulty. Of course, we often travel, busy work schedules. Such is life and everything comes at a price. It depends on the person, it is difficult for others to be a musician, but I have been with him all my life. Being a musician is part of my identity, not an obstacle or a challenge. I’m glad to have a career where I enjoy what I do.
You’ve been playing The Bad Plus for a year and a half. How has your arrival changed the trio as well?
This professional change is simply part of my journey. Some musicians choose to play only one type of music or only with certain people, but I try to stay open to all the changes and experiences in my professional life. Every day I see what new music and band music will offer me. To whom I will devote my time and attention. I am currently in The Bad Plus Trio and I, Dave and Reid are dedicating all our time and energy to this band, at this stage it is our life mission. But you never know what will happen tomorrow and our lives will change again. That is the beauty of our activities. I am fascinated by the fact that there are so many different opportunities all the time, and as you play music, you can spread so much love and joy to those around you.
How would you describe the relationship between the members of the trio and their relationship to the music they perform?
The relationship and my role in the group are created by being myself and expressing myself through music. That’s exactly the purpose of Dave and Reid. Every time we touch the instruments, we strive to preserve and reveal our certainty. I think that should be the basis for any relationship, not just the musicians playing together. You try to preserve your certainty and look for ways to combine it with another person. The Bad Plus trio Reid wants to be the best Reid Anderson, Dave the best Dave King and me the best Orrin Evans. Then we come together in three and see if all are evenly distributed as three corners of the triangle. And then we play.
Did you find anything unexpected about this band when you started playing with The Bad Plus Trio?
I wouldn’t say that. This experience allows me to seem to train another muscle that was previously neglected – the trio playing. But I have known for a long time the music produced by The Bad Plus Trio, and I have long been familiar with Dave and Reid. So this ensemble was a comfortable space for me and it was not difficult to get into it. However, I had never played Dave and Reid music before, so this aspect was new to me. However, I enjoy discovering the peculiarities of my colleagues’ musical language.
How do you combine the trio with your personal music language and creative work?
I think when I come to the trio we compose less and less as we always did, so there was no assimilation. When they bring their own composition, the trio can observe how they interpret it. On the other hand, when opening my colleagues’ compositions, I opened up my hearing to new possibilities in music. Maybe that’s why I understand music a little differently than a couple of years ago.
What do you think has matured you most in life?
I think my life has been most changed by becoming a husband and father, trying to figure out how it all works, how it is managed. It completely changes my priorities and my approach to life. Because my family is extremely important to me, so I choose situations that will help me best express it. During this time I am growing up most. If it doesn’t align with what I value in life, I don’t choose it.
Professional relationships also seem to be important to you in life, as you often collaborate with different musicians and ensembles.
Love is my greatest asset, so I enjoy the process of making music with other people, and I try to give the listeners joy of listening. It is the pursuit of my life. Sometimes I don’t get it, and when I’m playing, I don’t fully understand what or why you’re doing, but if I love and respect people who listen and play together on stage, then my purpose is completely fulfilled.
What is most important to you in relation to your audience and listeners?
It is my understanding that if I feel happy with the music, and the listener will feel happy. Therefore, it is important for musicians on stage to feel good, and your audience will easily convey your emotions. Of course, sometimes there is some discomfort on stage when you know that you like to play and that is your dream activity, but you don’t feel that way inside. In that case, you are trying to figure out whether the reason lies in you, in the music or in the audience. Once you find out, you try to remedy the situation as quickly as possible.
Do you have strong inner experiences on stage?
I look for it every day in my play, such is my ambition. If I give one special event on stage, I will limit myself because life is so long and I have had so many different experiences, and there are still new opportunities and unexperienced experiences. Therefore, I strive for strong experiences on stage every time, such is the ambition.
But learning strong experiences is a process, like all other processes, with its ups and downs. It is not just a straight path, but a very realistic journey and one who is not ready or committed to it should not descend. But the same is true of all other professions, not necessarily just for the sake of a musician’s career. Life is made up of good and bad days, but the journey continues all the time.
What do you usually talk to other trio members about?
Mostly about life, families, music. When I was younger, I imagined musicians discussing music all day long. But the real thing is to play music, to live it, not to talk about it. Therefore, in the group we usually talk about other things, everyday, coffee, lunch. Life itself is leaning against us and it does not feel like it tilts what we talk about and what we play on stage.
Thank you for the interview!