Meet Elena Pinderhughes

At 18 years old, the prodigiously talented jazz flutist Elena Pinderhughes is the youngest musician to have played Offside, beating out young piano whiz Joe Warner (who played in last year’s festival with the Marcus Shelby Trio) by a couple of years.

When Elena appeared as the surprise guest soloist with the Howard Wiley Trio on Friday night, her performance blew us all away. With gorgeous phrasing and musicality, she had no problem keeping pace with Howard. Just take a look for yourself!

Here they are playing a Monk tune – “I Mean You” – at the 2nd annual SF Offside Festival.

 Porto Franco Files #36 — filmed by Peter Varshavsky of Porto Franco Records

A seasoned performer at 18, Elena made her Yoshi’s Oakland debut—playing solo flute and singing—in 2009, when she was just 13 years old. This was after having already performed at Carnegie Hall and the White House!

Elena, who will be moving to New York city in the Fall to study music, made some time in her busy travel and rehearsal schedule to chat with us a few days after our festival. We asked her about playing jazz in the Bay Area and beyond.

Continue reading

Meet the Howard Wiley Trio

Howard Wiley emerged on the Bay Area music scene at the age of 15 and hasn’t looked back. A highly accomplished saxophonist who regularly works with the likes of Marcus Shelby, Faye Carrol, and Lavay Smith, Wiley is a true musician’s musician, with a vast repertoire under his belt and a firm belief in what swings and what, well, doesn’t quite live

Photo credit: Daniel Atkinson

Photo credit: Daniel Atkinson

up to his standards. In addition to keeping a busy performance schedule, Wiley is an active educator, leading workshops and mentoring young musicians throughout the Bay.

His most recent works have stemmed from the music of the Angola State Penitentiary, with Wiley composing two albums of material for a “soul chamber ensemble” that feature his pieces inspired by the spirituals and work songs that were sung by the inmates of the prison in the early 1900s.

Wiley will be in the trio format on Friday, May 24th at Duende for his first performance with SF Offside, joined by longtime collaborators Marcus Shelby on bass and Sly Randolph on drums. This stripped down format will allow listeners to hear Wiley in an unfiltered environment, with his tone, melodies and rhythmic prowess on full display. Meet the leader of this powerhouse trio, meet Howard Wiley:

Continue reading

Meet the Mads Tolling Quartet

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

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, John Coltrane, and others. 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!

Continue reading

Meet Dave Mihaly

Dave Mihaly is a towering figure in the Bay Area jazz/creative/indie/pop/folk/polka (ok, not polka, but maybe) music scene. Standing at nearly 8 feet tall (ok, more like 6 and half) and seemingly playing 40 inch kick drums, or sometimes none at all, he crafts smorgasbords

Photo Credit: Ceocles Serafimidis

Photo Credit: Ceocles Serafimidis

of sounds from far east instruments to good ol’ snare drums whether accompanying the likes of Jeremy Rourke, grooving with Killbossa, playing free or leading his own projects.

If one musician had to act as flag bearer for the Bay Area, it would be Dave. Not only would the flag reach nearly 20 ft high, it would be hoisted by someone devoted to melody and texture; someone who plays in at least one band you’ve heard of; and by one of the most generous and supportive musicians you can come across. The Offside crew is honored to present his group, Dave Mihaly & The Shimmering Leaves Ensemble, as they close out this year’s festival on May 25th at the Community Music Center. Meet Dave Mihaly:

Continue reading

Meet the Wiener Kids Family Band

Percussionist Jordan Glenn is 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.

DSC_0429For 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.

Continue reading

Meet Sheldon Brown

Sheldon Brown has been a mainstay on the Bay Area jazz and creative music scene for over 25 years. An avid composer and multi-reed instrumentalist, Brown leads a number of projects in the Bay Area including Distant Intervals, an ensemble with music derived from speech melodies, to a quintet that plays the music of Herbie Nichols. SONY DSC

I first came across his music and playing through Eric Moffat who booked The Sheldon Brown Group at El Valenciano in the Mission in 2011. The performance was memorizing, featuring extended meters, fierce improvising, and beautifully constructed melodies. The band sounded awesome. Laura and I would later meet Sheldon again in 2012 at an orientation meeting hosted by the San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music to welcome newly funded projects. After catching up with him, it was clear integrating his great work into upcoming SF Offside programming was a must. Sheldon Brown makes his first appearance with SF Offside on Saturday, May 25th at The Community Music Center in San Francisco.

Meet Sheldon Brown:

Continue reading

Meet Lisa Mezzacappa & Steve Adams

Anyone who’s a fan of local avant-jazz should know these two names: Lisa Mezzacappa and Steve Adams.

mezzacappa-adams duoAs 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.

Continue reading

Meet Asonic Garcia & Mike Boo of Mucho Stereo

Asonic Garcia and Mike Boo have been active participants in SF Offside programming, making their first appearance at last year’s festival in May with the genre-defying group, Secret Sidewalk. Laura and I loved them so much we asked them to perform at a special SF Offside presents show at Viracocha in November 2012, joining a bill with the newly formed Sonny Sharrock Experience.

Photo credit: Paciano Triunfo

Photo credit: Paciano Triunfo

Manning turntables, samplers, synths and other electronicss, Asonic & Mike lay down infectious grooves, tight beats, and compose alternative soundscapes that get listeners nodding their heads and shaking their feet.

This year the two are teaming up with with long time Bay Area drummer Jaz Sawyer in what will be a radical meeting of electronic and analog worlds. This brand new project is Mucho Stereo.

Meet one half of this dynamic duo – meet Mike Boo:

Continue reading

Meet Jaz Sawyer of Mucho Stereo

A gifted performer, educator, entrepreneur, and promoter, Jaz Sawyer is the very model of a modern jazz musician. Jaz can be found touring the globe with the likes Dee Dee Bridgewater, releasing records on his own label, educating young minds on the nuance of swing, and causing a general ruckus behind any kit that he’s playing.


With roots in the Bay Area and stints across the country, including in NYC, New Orleans, and now Los Angeles, Sawyer has left an indelible mark in every musical community he’s been a part of.

This year marks Jaz’ first appearance with SF Offside. Always open to new ideas and concepts, I pitched Jaz the idea of creating a new band that showcased him alongside two of the Bay Area’s most accomplished beat makers and producers—Mike Boo and Asonic Garcia of Secret Sidewalk (who performed in last year’s festival). This new trio, Mucho Stereo, stretches the confines of improvisation, melody, and form, all with Jaz laying down the groove and staying in the pocket.

Meet Jaz Sawyer:

Continue reading

Meet the Waystanders

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

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!

Continue reading