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Keyboardist Jason Lindner: All Things Considered

Spanning genres, cultures, formats and technologies

Keyboardist Jason Lindner, backstage at the 2013 Newport Jazz Festival
Now Vs Now. l. to r.: Panagiotis Andreau, Jason Lindner and Mark Giuliana

How would the Brooklyn-based keyboardist Jason Lindner arrange “Giant Steps” for jazz orchestra? It would start with just horns. The melody, slightly askew, would dip and swerve while a brass drone traveled up the middle of the track. Then a sprightly countermelody for flute and trumpet would replace the drone and soar above it all. Next, from out of nowhere, a bassist and two drummers would drop in, laying down an inebriated, behind-the-beat funk groove with rim shots and hi-hats and lazy electric low end. The horns would continue atop the beat, swelling over intensifying bass and drums, then pop and disappear. Now it’s time for the solos. As a player Lindner would appear at last, placing soulful acoustic piano beneath a delayed, vibe-heavy wah-wah solo from trumpeter Avishai Cohen. Then he’d drape glowing electric piano under a chatty improvisation from trombonist Dana Leong. Splitting up Leong’s solo would be a passage for the entire horn section, with lines winding fast and sharp. Not long afterward, a Latin beat would take hold. Moody electric piano might then navigate between the horns and bass and drums. A flute would take John Coltrane’s unforgettable melody for one last spin.

This is, in fact, precisely how Lindner would go about “Giant Steps,” because he wrote the arrangement and recorded it with the New Talent Jazz Orchestra in 2003. But it’s more than a thrilling, original take on an important song; it’s also a good introduction to Lindner, who defines himself by melding different styles and feels. And saying a lot within a single musical statement. And playing a bevy of synthesizers in addition to acoustic piano. And using what’s come before-he studied with bop eminence Barry Harris-and what’s next.

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