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Jason Lindner Ensemble: Premonition

Anyone concerned about the future of big band music should peep Premonition, the remarkable debut by 26-year-old pianist and composer Jason Lindner. A mainstay at New York’s bohemian jazz haunt Smalls, Lindner gathered a legion of fellow Smalls compadres to animate his noteworthy charts, which subtly reconcile the orchestral sweeps of Oliver Nelson and Thad Jones/Mel Lewis with the rhythmic pulse and textures of today.

Premonition proceeds in a suite-like manner, filled with declarative themes, recurring motifs and varying temperaments that range from elegant balladry to body-rocking grooves. On the surface, Lindner’s Ensemble sounds more straight-faced than, say, Orange Then Blue, but after one listen to “Space” and “Gaga,” which features Avishai Cohen creating an infectious sound on electric bass that combines Jaco Pastorius’ fluidity with Bootsy Collins’ bounce, it’s evident that these musicians probably frequent the dance scene as much as they do the jazz scene. Even on the stark “Mary’s Vibe (For Mary Lou Williams),” Lindner sneaks in M.C. Benu Merata for a brief rap in tribute to the musical genius. Though Merata’s dull verbal flow and fawning rhyme lessens the impact of the composition, fortunately Lindner’s wonderful piano playing and horn charts do more than make up for the sub-par rapping.

Sometimes with the lushness of the horn passages, and the riveting solos from saxophonist Gregory Tardy, Jimmy Greene and Myron Walden, Lindner gets lost in the mix. Luckily, there’s the graceful “Aquarius,” which allots Lindner ample room to shine his impressionistic sensibilities.

Premonition could very well be the beginnings of one of the most impressive big bands to emerge in years.

Originally Published