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!
Now in its second year, the SF Offside Festival presents three nights of incredible music that at once defines and defies the genre.
Featuring the best and brightest of the Bay Area scene—including local legends Howard Wiley and Marcus Shelby, two-time Grammy Award-winner Mads Tolling, Bay Area bulwarks Dave Mihaly, Steve Adams, Sheldon Brown, and Jaz Sawyer, plus emerging stars from a new generation of composers, Aram Shelton, Lisa Mezzacappa, Jordan Glenn, and Alex Pinto—SF Offside demonstrates why San Francisco is on the cusp of becoming the epicenter for new innovations in jazz.
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.