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.
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:
Anyone who’s a fan of local avant-jazz should know these two names: Lisa Mezzacappa and Steve Adams.
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.
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
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:
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:
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!
I first saw Alex Pinto perform with his trio towards the end of 2010 at a little place in the Mission, sadly now gone, called Kaleidoscope. It was clear right away that he was a unique musical talent. The following April, I went to the Revolution Cafe for his CD release party. I had just gotten back from my second stint in Thailand, so I hadn’t seen his trio in the intervening period, but I had been plugging his shows on my Facebook music page, Live ‘n’ Local SF, which, like a woman obsessed, I maintained even while living in Thailand.
That night at the Revolution, I thought about introducing myself, but the place was packed, so I left it for another time. I did, though, write something about the show in Fenderhardt, my blog. Looking back now, it’s funny to read those words again, written almost two years ago.
“Pinto is an accomplished young jazz guitarist who blends Hindustani classical music with contemporary jazz and indie rock. In addition to his original jazz compositions, he also does a number of very sweet interpretations of some Radiohead songs. He just released his debut album, Inner State. Definitely one to watch out for!”
Guitarist Roger Kim is a fresh voice on the Bay Area jazz scene. A recent graduate of UC Berkeley, where he studied Music with Myra Melford and Brian Pardo, Kim’s trio, First Day, is his first venture as a bandleader. Kim is a modern jazz composer whose style ranges from the quiet and contemplative to more swinging, upbeat tunes. As he says, he writes emotionally expressive music that likes to “ask questions, take journeys, and describe sentiments.”
Photo by Liz Duran
We met Roger last year at our inaugural event in May after he wrote an enthusiastic preview on his blog of the three-night festival. After reading that, it was no surprise to see him there every night, taking lots of fantastic photos (many of which you can see here). Some time later, when I was still programming music at Viracocha, I invited Kim’s First Day to open for Lisa Mezzacappa’s Bait and Switch. Since then his trio has been playing regularly at various spots around town, so it’s a pleasure for Offside to present him (along with the Alex Pinto Trio) in this, the last show of our Spark Series.
We stole a few moments with Roger to ask him some questions about First Day and his upcoming Offside show.
I met Sonny Sharrock at Eric Moffat’s place in the Mission in 2010. Eric and I were mixing my album and laying on the floor among piles of records, books, tapes, and CDs was a pretty simple looking jewel case titled Ask The Ages.
“That is the last great jazz album,” Eric quickly told me, as I opened up the CD and took at look at the personnel and track listing. Elvin Jones, Pharaoh Sanders, and Charnett Moffett playing with this guy I had never heard of. We stopped what we were doing, as Eric had to right this wrong.
“Get ready to hear an 18 wheeler screeching down the highway,” Eric said as he put on “Promises Kept,” track one of Ask The Ages.
Reed master Aram Shelton is one of the most prolific avant-jazz composers in the Bay Area, and is bandleader to numerous ensembles, including Marches, Ton Trio, Stratic, and These Are Our Hours, a quintet Shelton put together especially for our inaugural festival last year. He also curates and organizes the Active Music Series, Oakland’s monthly showcase of creative jazz, noise, improv, and more at the Uptown.
Photo by Peter Gannushkin / DOWNTOWNMUSIC.NET
Influenced by the free jazz movement, Shelton’s compositions are complex and intricate, with generous sections devoted to improvisations that highlight the strengths and talents of his bandmates. For our Spark Series, Shelton has put together another brand new ensemble, a quartet he’s calling Golden Age. In addition to some new material, Shelton’s Golden Age will also be revisiting an older composition, the Kodachrome Music suite, which he wrote a few years ago after a camping trip to the Kodachrome Basin in southern Utah, a place Shelton describes as “sparse, unpopulated, and beautiful.”
We talked with Aram about his music and the brand new quartet he’s put together for SF Offside.
At home on tenor saxophone while blowing through jazz standards, or creating genre-bending works with the Bay Area’s leading DJs and producers, Marcus Stephens defies genre or category. Equipped with a full sound, fluid lines, and a stompbox of pedals that would make even Nels Cline blush, Stephens returns to SF Offside for the first installment in our Spark Series.
Last time we met this versatile player, it was with Secret Sidewalk, an electro-acoustic quintet that mixes sampling and synths with drums and saxophone. This time round, we’re presenting Stephens as a bandleader in a group with a very different sound. Loosely based on the classic organ trios of the 50s and 60s, the Markstep Trio, featuring Eric Garland on drums and Colin Hogan on keyboards, is not your typical jazz trio, traversing multiple musical landscapes, including jazz, rock, soul, funk, and hip hop. These three seasoned collaborators bring a certain versatility and vibrancy to their playing together that is sure to delight.
We caught up with Marcus to ask him a few questions about his music and his upcoming Spark Series show at the Red Poppy. Continue reading