Since its inception in 2006, the Brooklyn Jazz Underground has made a strong impact in the NY arts community. In its 17 years of activity, the collective has organized or produced over 100 concerts, presented 11 annual festivals, released two albums of original new work by the Brooklyn Jazz Underground Ensemble, released five sampler albums highlighting the work of collective members, created a radio show, founded an associated record label with a catalog of 78 albums to date, secured grant funding, and has been the subject of features by NPR, Downbeat Magazine, and Jazz Times.
The Brooklyn Jazz Underground was formed as a grassroots effort among a multinational group of 10 Brooklyn-based jazz composers and bandleaders. BJU has created a model by pooling resources and sharing ideas in an effort to promote awareness of original music coming from the borough. The group began by focusing on producing live performances, recordings, and a collective brand. The BJU presented itself to the public with its first annual sampler CD and festival in January 2007, a first of 5 sampler CD releases.
From 2007–2008 the BJU had a residency at the Tea Lounge in Brooklyn, presenting new music weekly. In 2007 the BJU held a benefit concert for public schools; funds raised were applied through www.donorschoose.org to fully fund a music program at PS 120. In 2010 the BJU teamed up with Connection Works to produce the “Underground Works” concert series, which presented weekly concerts at Sycamore in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn until 2013.
In 2011 the BJU received a grant from BAC for the commission of new work, which was consequently recorded by the Brooklyn Jazz Underground Ensemble and released as their first album, “A Portrait of Brooklyn,” in 2012. A second album by the BJU Ensemble titled
“7×7 (Seven By Seven)” followed in 2014. The collective also presented annual festivals from 2006–2017 at Smalls Jazz Club in Manhattan and IBeam and Shapeshifter Lab in Brooklyn.
In 2010 the BJU has been broadcasting the Brooklyn Jazz Underground Radio Show, a weekly show broadcast on the Progressive Radio Network (www.progressiveradionetwork.com) hosted by BJU members. The BJU has been awarded grants by the Aaron Copland Fund, the Cary New Music Performance Fund, and the Brooklyn Arts Council Department of Cultural Affairs Regrant program.
The BJU has inspired the foundation of three new jazz collectives based on its model: the Queens Jazz Overground, the Paris Jazz Underground, and the Los Angeles Jazz Collective. The BJU has also been involved in panel discussions at the 2007 International Association for Jazz Education Convention and the 2009 Symposium of Jazz in Brooklyn at Brooklyn College. Currently the BJU is comprised of six members: Anne Mette Iversen, Rob Garcia, David Smith, David Cook, Owen Howard, and Tammy Scheffer.