Jason Lindner Ensemble
Packing his 11-piece ensemble into the loft-like space of New York’s Jazz Gallery, Jason Lindner displayed his extraordinary gifts as a composer, arranger, conductor, and pianist. With white-painted brick walls and somewhat narrow wood floors, the Gallery has acoustics that verge on brash, but Lindner turned them to his advantage with his mastery of dynamics and a selective, strategic use of his band’s full power. Opening with "Fire Elements," Lindner built anticipation via the rhythm section, which set up a slow, stirring groove under a dramatic flute solo by Jay Collins. Omer Avital’s syncopated Latin bass line was doubled by Lindner’s left hand as well by Alex Harding on baritone sax, with drummer Daniel Freedman laying down the groove. A few minutes of this and you really wanted that big band sound to kick in. Lindner delivered, first with short stabs of color from the trumpets and trombones, expanding the arrangement gradually and then segueing into "Natural Trinity." After tenorist Yosvany Terry and trombonist Joe Fiedler were featured, the tune went through a labyrinth of frenetic vamps and false endings, finally to end with a full stop, leaving only the synchronized, fading cries of Collins on tenor and Myron Walden on alto.
Lindner then led the band through two compositions by trombonist/arranger Avi Lebovich. Both "Avner" and "Mr. Demargary" appeared on the ensemble’s 2000 Stretch debut, Premonition. Unlike on the album, however, Lindner presented them conjoined as a suite, heightening their dramatic impact. The second piece featured a spirited exchange between the band’s trumpeters, Duane Eubanks and Diego Urcola, with Eubanks muting his horn for contrast. Concluding the set with a new tune called "Lifelight," Lindner hit upon stunning harmonic discoveries, presenting a rainbow of sound that went through rubato, free-form, and ballad stages before culminating in an Eastern-tinged jam.
The Jazz Gallery is an ideal setting for this sort of groundbreaking music. Founded and run by Dale Fitzgerald, the Gallery is billed as an "international jazz cultural center" and is a New York State-chartered museum. The piano on which Lindner played was owned by Paul Desmond and for 18 years was the house instrument at the defunct Bradley’s. But in addition to its historical value, the Gallery is affordable, and thus fills a crucial void at a time when public lack of interest in jazz is compounded by very high prices at New York’s biggest clubs. During the month of March, ten bucks will get you in to see world-class players like Orrin Evans, Edward Simon, Jason Moran, Vijay Iyer, Avishai Cohen, and Jean-Michel Pilc.