Look what you started, Minneapolis. After a decade of performing multi-night stands at the Dakota right around Christmas, the Bad Plus has branded the idea and is franchising it at some of the other best-known jazz clubs in the country.
The internationally acclaimed jazz trio with the Midwestern roots just finished a four-night run at the Jazz Showcase in Chicago. Tuesday it heads to New York's legendary Village Vanguard for an entire week of shows (taking over New Year's Eve from New Orleans hero Dr. Michael White). The fellas also have a four-nighter at St. Louis' Jazz at the Bistro the week after that.
"There aren't that many real jazz clubs left in America, so it's kind of extra meaningful," drummer Dave King reported. "And to be home at the Dakota in the middle of all that is perfect. The whole thing started with us wanting to reconnect with Minnesota this time of year."
The Dakota gigs -- Friday, Sunday and Monday (two sets each night) -- allow Bad Plus pianist Ethan Iverson and bassist Reid Anderson to visit their families for the holidays. Both left for New York almost 20 years ago after growing up in Menomonie, Wis., and the Twin Cities, respectively. King still lives here and always gets to spend Christmas with his wife and kids. They even joined him at last weekend's Chicago gigs for a family getaway.
"It works out really well personally, but these multi-night runs are also a way for us to really stretch out musically," he said, calling from somewhere in Wisconsin on his drive back Monday.
While 2011 was the rare year when the Bad Plus did not release an album, the trio still stretched out. The first half of the year was devoted to its reinvention of Igor Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring," an ambitious project co-commissioned and performed at Duke University and New York's Lincoln Center. The trio also staged the piece -- written for a 60-piece orchestra, not a three-piece jazz band -- at the Loring Theater in May and has several more performances planned over the winter. A recording of it is also in the works.
King also still has his marker-board array of other projects keeping him busy. His quartet the Dave King Trucking Company has been gigging more, following the warm reception for its debut album over the summer. Halloween, Alaska, toured England in October, also with a new album. The Gang Font, King's free-form, wigged-out rock quartet with Hüsker Dü's Greg Norton, also recently finished a record. And last but not least, King's beloved old jazz trio Happy Apple is working toward a new album that could wind up being issued by Justin "Bon Iver" Vernon's new imprint.
First, though, the Bad Plus will get back to its own music. The trio will debut new compositions this week at the Dakota from an album it recorded this fall at a studio in upstate New York. Its second all-original record, after 2010's "Never Stop," the album should be out by next summer -- and can't come a moment too soon, King said.
"'The Rite of Spring' really was a task to pull off," he said with an exhausted laugh. "In the end, we're glad we did it and proud of it. But it kept us from working on our own music for way too long, which is really where our hearts are these days."