Update: This show has been cancelled due to the strike by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s unit of the Chicago Federation of Musicians.
For nearly two decades, the Bad Plus has been an anomaly in jazz, achieving a degree of crossover appeal that’s only been matched in recent years by fusion groups such as BadBadNotGood and Snarky Puppy. Furthermore, the Minneapolis trio accomplished this without cross-stylistic approaches or big-name collaborations; instead, original members Ethan Iverson (piano), Reid Anderson (upright bass), and Dave King (drums) built a following by imbuing acoustic jazz with rock energy and radically transforming popular songs by bands such as Nirvana, Black Sabbath, David Bowie, Tears for Fears, and Pink Floyd. Following the departure of Iverson in 2017, jazz veteran Orrin Evans has taken over on the keys, making his recorded debut with the Bad Plus on Never Stop II in 2018. A thematic sequel to the band’s 2010 album, Never Stop, Never Stop II is likewise noticeably devoid of covers. And though there are moments of propulsive energy, the album as a whole is more measured than much of the band’s catalog, pairing hushed melodies and accessible rhythms with postbop variation. For this special performance at the Symphony Center, the three are joined by prolific jazz-fusion guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel; jazzy neosoul vocalist José James opens with a full-band tribute to soul legend Bill Withers. v