Two-time Grammy Award-winning violinist Mads Tolling has been called ”the most exciting musician I have come across in the past ten years” by Stanley Clarke, with whom he played for many years. Originally hailing from Denmark, Mads moved to the US when he was twenty to study jazz at the Berklee College of Music. For nine years he was a member of the Turtle Island Quartet, whose John Coltrane album won the quartet their second Grammy for Best Classical Crossover.
Photo by Chuck Gee
Mads has also performed with the likes of Chick Corea, Kenny Baron, and Paquito D’Rivera. In addition to touring internationally as a performer, he is a dedicated educator, teaching at home in Berkeley’s Jazzschool Institute, as well as all over the US and Canada.
Offside is very proud to present the Mads Tolling Quartet, playing both original compositions and new arrangements of music by Jean-Luc Ponty and John Coltrane. Joining Mads will be Offside favorites Eric Garland on drums and George Ban-Weiss on bass, and on guitar, Dave MacNab, who has the distinction of being the only musician playing in two different ensembles in this year’s festival!
Percussionist Jordan Glennis one of the most popular and inventive young players in the Bay Area jazz and creative music scene, so much so, it might be easier to list off the ensembles he does not play with. His own project, Wiener Kids, started out as a duo with guitarist Steini Gunnarsson. When Gunnarsson returned to his native Iceland, the project evolved into a trio with reed masters Aram Shelton and Cory Wright playing saxophones, clarinets, and a little cowbell.
For Offside this year, Glenn will be conducting the Wiener Kids Family Band—his new big band version of the project that all began with ”For My Mother,” the last track from Wiener Kids’ 2011 album, What a Mess.
When someone uses the term “visually evocative” to describe music, the aim is not usually to conjure up images of mice with frying pans and cats with flattened heads. Jordan’s music, which Cy Musiker of KQED recently called “really wild stuff,” ranges from cartoonish, through-composed episodes to cinematic, long form compositions with harmonies so gorgeous they might catch you off-guard. Though notated in fine detail, there are strong elements from free jazz, as well as from avant rock, metal, New Orleans marching band jazz, and even a little Gamelan.
As a bassist known for her deep grooves and masterful improvisations, Lisa plays in more than a dozen jazz and chamber ensembles around the Bay. She is bandleader in a range of groups from Bait ‘n’ Switch, which we featured in last year’s festival, to Les Gwan Jupons, a Caribbean folk group. Lisa is also a curator and organizer of creative music series, like the Monday Makeout, where the first ever Festivus took place—a most memorable and ingenius festival in which local bands covered other local bands. (My personal favorite was a duet Lisa did with cellist Crystal Pascucci, covering Wiener Kids track, ”My Bike.”)
Saxophonist Steve Adams is best known for his work with the groundbreaking ROVA Saxophone Quartet, which explores “the synthesis of composition and collective improvisation.” Drawing on influences ranging from free jazz, new music, and avant-rock, the quartet has been pushing on the boundaries of music for more than twenty-five years. Steve also performs with the Vinny Golia Large Ensemble and the Bill Horvitz Band, as well as leading his own projects, and he teaches in the Music program at Mills College.
Together, Mezzacappa and Adams have performed in trio, quartet, and large ensemble contexts. For their Offside set, they will explore compositions each of them have written and arranged for larger groups, compressed into the fantastically intimate and possibility-rich context of the duo.
One feature that distinguishes the Bay Area’s creative music scene is the degree of cross-pollinating that takes place here, which results in some brilliant and exciting collaborations. In fact, it makes the term “supergroup” almost meaningless. Almost.
Shaun Lowecki. Photo: Jacob Rodriguez
Waystanders, who will be opening this year’s festival, is a collective comprised of five players, each of whom are bandleaders and composers in their own right.
Offside favorite Aram Shelton on alto sax is one of those local composers who never fails to surprise with the beauty and inventiveness of his music. He blew us away, yet again, when his Golden Age quartet played at our Spark Series in March. We also featured another of his many ensembles, These Are Our Hours, in our first festival last year. Shelton’s piece for the Oakland Active Orchestra was arguably the highlight of this year’s Switchboard Music Festival, so we’re delighted that Aram is involved again in this year’s festival.
Joining Aram on tenor sax is Jason Gillenwater, an accomplished player known for his smooth tone, sophisticated melodies, and a honed rhythmic sensibility. Jason is a recent transplant from New York city, where he played on the jazz scene for many years. Clearly, he must have heard that SF is where the real action is!