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The Jason Lindner Big Band: Live At The Jazz Gallery

Mark F. Turner By

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If you think that jazz composition for large ensembles is out of touch with the current music environment then listen to pianist/composer Jason Lindner's Live At The Jazz Gallery. Like contemporaries Maria Schneider with Sky Blue (ArtistShare, 2007) and Guillermo Klein's Una Nave (Sunnyside Records, 2005); Lindner breathes new life into the historically informed "big band sound with fresh ideas culled from the diverse sounds of New York City and global music influences.

Lindner's chameleon-like persona has changed colors to fit comfortably within various backgrounds with forward musicians like bassist Meshell Ndegeocello, vocalist Claudia Acuña, and his small group effort Ab Aeterno (Fresh Sound New Talent,2006). But his truest colors seem to reveal themselves with his critically acclaimed big band that has performed in NYC since the mid-1990s, packing venues to enthusiastic crowds. Live, recorded in 2005 at the Tenth Anniversary Celebration of the Jazz Gallery, captures the elegance, street savvy, and uniqueness that personifies Linder's new vision for orchestrated music.

With a twelve-piece band, the sounds of big brass, thick reeds, and charted rhythms are familiar—but this is not your grandparents' big band. The music is as varied and connected as the city's environment: An urban street-credo groove with crooning horns leads into a funky vamp on "Intro: Song For Jason, while Duke Ellington romance and opulence feature in "Life Light, with subtle tinges of gospel piano and an infectious Middle Eastern tempo are heard, all within the same composition. The locales of Israel and Africa, the sounds of Latin and Harlem and others, are all intricately a part of Lindner's ethnomusicology.

There are sweeping themes of grandeur and muscle that only a large ensemble can muster as heard on "Suhier, with its elaborate writing, shifting tempos, and tornadic horns, as Lindner leads to the band into newer swinging themes. There are surprises, as heard in the center of the piece, where Lindner adds a soulful electric keyboard solo supported by infectious beats that dig in deep—then chill in the ending vamp. The music is detailed but allows the musicians freedom to express themselves artistically in numerous memorable performances, always contributing to the whole.

Lindner, an exceptional musician, provides drama, gentleness, and fire in his playing but of equal import is his ability to conceptualize ideas and create living and breathing music with these talented young performers. This is clear on the oxymoronically titled "Freak of Nature a piece that is perfect in melody and execution. The dual CD recording closes with the street-blues prose of 'Poem For You Today, an inquiring commentary on life issues as the repeating chorus answers "I Don't Know. And while the deeper questions of life may never be fully answered, what is clear is that Live At The Jazz Gallery is an exceptional work by one of today's modern and bright "large-ensemble leaders.

Track Listing: CD1: Intro: Song for Jason; Suheir; Rumors; Inbal; Song for Amos. CD2: Freak of Nature; Life Light; The 5 Elements and the Natural Trinity; Poem for You Today.

Personnel: Jason Lindner: piano, keyboards; Omer Avital: double bass; Eric McPherson: drums; Miguel Zen

Title: Live At The Jazz Gallery | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Anzic Records

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