As a collective trio that doggedly resists all attempts to distinguish one player above the others as first among equals, The Bad Plus continues to buck jazz's antiquated star system.

Joshua Redman, who's benefited from jazz's star-making machinery as much as anyone in recent decades, got a close look at the band's internal dynamics during several engagements in which he became the first horn player inducted into the Bad Plus' wondrous world of original tunes and canny covers of rock and pop songs.

Pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson and drummer Dave King "all do other things, but since The Bad Plus formed, that's been their absolute priority," says Redman, who has pushed back against jazz's fixation with "big names" through the collective quartet James Farm. "My sense is they have all sacrificed a lot over the years in terms of other things they might want to do."

The Bad Plus returns to the Bay Area for a series of shows, including Monday at Kuumbwa Jazz Center in Santa Cruz and Tuesday through Thursday at Yoshi's in Oakland, focusing on music from 2012's "Made Possible" (E One). Consisting entirely of original compositions by all three musicians, the album highlights the way the trio has honed a radically democratic group sound that erases traditional distinctions between soloist and accompanist (and often leaves audiences uncertain about when to applaud).

—‰'Band' is the key word," Anderson says. "Most of the time a trio with this configuration is considered the pianist's group. But we're very much a collective with equal input and say in all matters. We feel that's an important stance to take. We make group music and have a group identity. It's always the three of us on every gig.


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"A sub would change the chemistry."

Whatever the Bad Plus players have given up in terms of individual name recognition, they've gained in a shared sense of mission. The band originally attained an unusually broad following among young music fans through grandiose interpretations of beloved rock and pop tunes, from Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" and Blondie's "Heart of Glass" to Radiohead's "Karma Police" and Tears for Fears' "Everybody Wants to Rule the World."

The Bad Plus still peppers its sets with sweeping cover tunes, but "Made Possible" expands the trio's sonic reach with a variety of subtle electronic textures, which was new territory for the band. While the experiments proved fruitful in the studio, don't expect to hear the trio's sound augmented on stage.

"I'm deeply interested in electronic music, but something about having these acoustic parameters forces you to use your imagination and find other ways of expressing the kind of energy you would otherwise express with a more synthetic sound or a volume knob," Anderson says. "Without being overly dogmatic about it, playing without electronics is central to what we do."

Nothing better captures the audacious creative vision of The Bad Plus better than their exploration of "The Rite of Spring," Stravinsky's epochal modernist masterpiece. The band first presented its distilled version as part of the multimedia production co-commissioned by Duke Performances and Lincoln Center "On Sacred Ground: Stravinsky's Rite of Spring," which the musicians performed around the country in 2011-12.

"The Rite of Spring" famously premiered May 29, 1913, at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées as the score for a production by Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. Nijinsky's ballet sparked an art riot that's still under contention (historians debate whether it was Stravinsky's music or Nijinsky's dance that most provoked the commotion).

With the work's 100th anniversary rapidly approaching, The Bad Plus once again is delving into Stravinsky's "Rite" through a collaboration with the Mark Morris Dance Group. Iverson spent years working as the rehearsal pianist for Morris' company, and he's maintained close ties with the choreographer.

The Bad Plus and the American String Quartet perform the iconic work for the world premiere of Morris' new "Rite," which the Mark Morris Dance Group presents June 12-13 at Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley as part of the Cal Performances festival Ojai North 2013. Even for a group that eschews traditional instrumental roles, interpreting Stravinsky required a new group approach.

"We can't think of ourselves as a bassist, pianist and drummer," Anderson says. "We have to think outside those parameters, while also serving those functions."

Whether or not Stravinsky has influenced the trio's compositions remains to be seen, but Anderson won't be surprised if he hears some "Rites" echoes. "Everything you take in finds a way through," he says, "sometimes in ways you're not even aware of."

THE BAD PLUS

When: 7 p.m. Monday
Where: Kuumbwa Jazz Center, 320 Cedar St.,
Santa Cruz
Tickets: $25-$28,
831-427-2227,
www.kuumbwajazz.org
Also: 8 and 10 p.m.
Tuesday-May 2, Yoshi's, 510 Embarcadero W., Oakland, $15-$22, 510-238-9200, www.yoshis.com