Just before his unexpected death on Sunday, David Bowie was making headlines for his last album Blackstar — and not only because new music from the medium-defying artist never stopped being newsworthy. The buzz around Blackstar grew last fall when Rolling Stone reported that the album would include a quartet of jazz musicians that Bowie first heard (as so many do) at a small club in New York’s Greenwich Village.
The piece — an in-depth interview with Bowie’s longtime collaborator Tony Visconti — also discussed how the omnivorous artist and his band had been listening to Kendrick Lamar‘s 2015 album To Pimp a Butterfly — a project that included some of contemporary jazz’s most important voices.
Billboard reached out to the quartet that worked alongside Bowie on what would be his final project — the same quartet he first heard at 55 Bar: saxophonist Donny McCaslin, keyboardist Jason Lindner, bassist Tim Lefebvre and drummer Mark Guiliana.
“I’m deeply saddened, stunned, mystified and completely awed by the power of David Bowie’s creativity and determination to produce all he did in the single year I’ve known him,” Lindner told Billboard in a statement. “It’s humbling to have been invited to share in the process leading to Blackstar, and to witness his brilliance and benevolence.”
Lefebvre, who is currently on tour with the Tedeschi Trucks Band, added that Bowie “was a lovely human being, deeply erudite and caring, and absolutely one of the funniest people I’ve ever met.” The bassist told Billboard that it was “a joy to be in his presence, and create some music.”
“Thank you from the bottom of my humble heart for letting me into your life,” Guiliana said, “and in doing so changing mine. It was an absolute honor to create with you. I am forever grateful.”
Finally McCaslin, the quartet’s leader, told Billboard, “I am so deeply saddened by today’s news. Working with David Bowie on Blackstar was a life-changing experience for me, and a gift beyond measure.
“David was fully present and engaged in the creative process from the moment he entered the studio until he left,” the saxophonist added. “He was always gracious, generous, and funny. I will always be inspired by him, am grateful to have known him, and am holding his family and friends in my heart.”