BEST JAZZ ARTIST - 2002
A few days after New York Time jazz critic Ben Ratliff put the Bad Plus's self-titled debut CD on his year-end list of critic's picks (other honorees included pianists Jason Moran and Keith Jarrett), the obscure, upstart trio showed up for a two-night stint at St. Paul's Dakota Bar & Grill. It was a coming-home party of sorts for Menomonie, Wisconsin-native Ethan Iverson, an efficient but audacious pianist making inroads in NYC, and his frequent collaborator, Reid Anderson, a Twin Cities native. Both musicians offered up energetic, sometimes experimental readings of both their original tunes and more than a few pop songs (à la Brad Mehldau)--and frequently worked from the inside out and back again with awe-inspiring agility. That said, it was impossible to keep your eyes or your ears off Dave King. It almost always is. The Twin Cities-based drummer, a perennial on the pop scene who co-founded the hard-rocking jazz trio Happy Apple, is as melodic as he is demonstrative, colorfully contemporary, but never straying far from the root. From gig to gig, song to song, he works furiously to push various bandmates and listeners across genres and beyond expectations. This award is not just a salute to King's meaty chops, however--it is also a thank-you for his impact on the local music scene. Owing in large part to his various projects (including work with Minneapolis-based bassist Anthony Cox, who is always a contender), a younger, hipper audience is stepping out to see more jazz. And older listeners are getting a much-needed kick in the ass.