Williamsburg is about to host the reunion of one of the most eclectic bands in New York’s jazz scene.
On Thursday, Dec. 3, art rock ensemble Breeding Ground is set to perform at new venue National Sawdust. It will be their first show since the NYC Winter Jazzfest in 2013. The group is led by pianist Jason Lindner, and it is the combination of his heralded big band, which formed in 1995 at Smalls Jazz Club, and his electronic groove trio Now vs. Now, which formed in 2006 and features drummer Mark Guiliana and bassist Panagiotis Andreou.
The result is an 11-member group that transcends mainstream sound: Electronic grooves dance underneath acoustic string and horn parts, instrumental music meets the singer-songwriter genre, and familiar song structures clash with Lindner’s forward-thinking musical twists.
“Something they haven’t heard before,” Lindner said of what he hopes the audience will experience. “It’s minimal—there are parts that are pretty open, but a lot of it is very orchestrated.”
Lindner formed the group in 2009 when he was commissioned by the nonprofit cultural center The Jazz Gallery to write an hour of music for a large ensemble.
“I just wanted to experiment with some other instrumentation,” Lindner said. “So I wrote all the music in a few months’ time, and we performed it in 2009 at the Jazz Gallery—that was the first performance.”
Breeding Ground’s reunion at National Sawdust is part of the jazz series that the venue holds every first Thursday of the month, curated by Mexican jazz singer Magos Herrera. She wants her series to showcase the universal aspect of jazz, which leads her to pick up-and-coming Latin American jazz musicians alongside artists who, like Lindner, have a global view of the genre.
“Most of them are jazz musicians that have a very international or world spirit with them, which is basically where jazz is heading,” Herrera said of the artists in her series. “It’s kind of sharing my international tribe in this space.”
Lindner truly captures this international spirit. He has taught and performed with Herrera in India, and he has worked with many international artists, including Anat Cohen, Claudia Acuña, and, more recently, David Bowie. In addition, Lindner is noted as a visionary in New York’s music scene, performing both with his own groups as well as Meshell Ndegeocello, Donny McCaslin, and Mark Guiliana’s Beat Music, to name a few.
“He’s a very interesting musician because, first of all, he has this vision of really bringing music forward and being really on top of what is happening in New York today with the new generation,” Herrera said. “He’s a very fearless musician. He also has a very international, inclusive view, and he honors international songs or rhythms or ideas in his own music.”
National Sawdust just opened in Williamsburg this past October. Known for its modern interior design as well as extraordinary acoustics, it serves as a musical incubator for artists.
“It’s an entirely artist-led organization,” Paola Prestini, executive and creative director of National Sawdust, said. “I myself am a composer, and there are four different levels of programming, and it’s all focused on discovery. So we have curators that curate their own work and their discoveries, and then groups in residence, artists-in-residence, and partners.”
Before Prestini chose Herrera as a curator, Herrera had provided vocals to Prestini’s violin concerto “House of Solitude.” Prestini hopes that Herrera’s series will fix the lack of jazz in Williamsburg’s music community. She is especially excited for Lindner to bring Breeding Ground to the venue.
“I think it’s so tremendous to have him there,” Prestini said. “Our hope specifically with jazz is that Williamsburg hasn’t really had a venue that has jazz, so it’s also the idea of bringing in different kinds of music … curated through Magos’ lens and to the neighborhood.
With its superb infrastructure and goal for the Williamsburg community, National Sawdust is the perfect venue for Breeding Ground’s upcoming concert.
“The venue itself is very alternative, very modern,” Herrera said. “And so is Jason’s music.”
Breeding Ground will be performing at National Sawdust on Thursday, Dec. 3 at 9:30 p.m. Tickets for the event cost $25.