David Bowie may not be doing any press to promote his upcoming album, ★, (pronounced Blackstar), but that doesn’t mean his collaborators are remaining silent. Late last month, we posted an in-depth piece about the making of the album where we spoke with producer Tony Visconti, saxophonist Donny McCaslin and drummer Mark Guiliana, but we didn’t quite get everyone. “[Keyboardist] Jason [Lindner] was a godsend,” Visconti said. “We gave him some pretty far-out chords, but he brought a jazz sensibility to re-voice them.”
Lindner is indeed an incredibly accomplished jazz keyboardist who has worked with Avishai Cohen, Dafnis Prieto, Claudia Acuña and many others. We called him up to speak about his work on ★.
Are you a longtime David Bowie fan or did you come to him later in life?
Later. I was a total bebop head. I was a metalhead as a kid and then a bebopper and blues head as a teen. I didn’t start really start to expand and start to appreciate rock & roll and stuff like that until well into my twenties.
What was the first Bowie record you heard?
Earthling. I really loved it. Of course, I heard the hits as they came out in the 1980s like “Let’s Dance” and everything. I knew his music as more of an outsider. But with Earthling, I started checking him out more.
That’s seen by many as one of his lesser albums, though I’ve always liked it.
It’s pretty experimental. They were really plugged into the underground drum ‘n’ bass stuff happening at the time.
Did you first come into contact with him when you saw him at Bar 55 a year and a half ago?
I didn’t know he was there. I was thankful I didn’t know since I would have been self-conscious about playing.
How did you learn he was there?
Afterwards, Donny [McCaslin] was like, “Bowie was in the audience, and I think we might do something.”
What was your reaction to that?
I was really happy and excited, but in general I’m not the kind of person to get my hopes up since I’ve been disappointed before. Things like that have come up, and then they wind up not happening. There was no guarantee that what we’d do in the studio would ever amount to an album release. I’m the kind of person that I want to see it to believe it.
Tell me about the first time you met him.
That would be the first day in the studio back in January.
Did it surprise you that you were invited onto this project?
If I say it didn’t surprise me, I sound like an asshole. I don’t know. Great things have happened before. It was a very pleasant surprise, I’d say that. It was thrilling that all of a sudden all this was happening and we were making arrangements to have gear in the studio and holding these dates. It was pretty amazing.