Get to Know the Bands of SF Offside – Lisa Mezzacappa’s Bait & Switch

Lisa Mezzacappa’s Bait & Switch quartet will be opening this year’s SF Offside Festival on Thursday, May 24th at El Valenciano. Ms. Mezzacappa is a stalwart bassist and composer in the jazz and creative music scenes in San Francisco, contributing to its musical output as a band leader and side person, as well curating the monthly Monday Make-Out Room sessions that showcases the Bay’s cutting edge improvisational music scene. She will be joined by Aaron Bennett on saxophones, John Finkbeiner on electric guitar, and Vijay Anderson on drums. Ms. Mezzacappa took a few moments to describe her music and reminisced about the joys of touring.

SFOFest – Tell us about your band’s first gig.

LM – We played at Intersection for the Arts, an entirely new book of music, in Spring 2008. It was my first bandleading effort in the Bay Area, where it was all of my compositions. I drove my boyfriend at the time insane preparing for it, it totally consumed me, it felt important.  But all of us had played together in Aaron’s band GoGo Fightmaster for many years, I knew who I wanted to make this music with. . . I kind of stole Aaron’s band, he was a good sport about it.

SFOFest – If you could open for any band, past or present, who/whom would it would be?

LM – The Art Ensemble of Chicago. Really, I think we’d rather play with them, than just open for them, though. . .

Or maybe Henry Threadgill’s Very Very Circus?  As long as we don’t have to follow them.

SFOFest -If you’re on the road, who’s the driver, who’s the chef, who’s late leaving in the morning, who loses their cell phone etc?

LM – Our last tour, to southern California, looked like this:
The two people with the day jobs (more reliable cars) provide the the vehicles. Vijay drove Aaron’s car, while Aaron worked on his laptop. I drove my car, John fed my CD player regular doses of 80s-era Slayer and Metallica (that’s what I need to drive on I-5). I make a lot of questionably-legal U-turns to get to various venues and spend a fair amount of time researching on about local delicacies . . . we had some great octopus tacos in san diego on that trip. Lodging is always a challenge, our weirdest situation on that tour was in Bakersfield. We stayed with an accountant who is on the board of the jazz society there, all bunched up on the floor in his living room in sleeping bags. After serving us liberal quantities of microwave popcorn and Crystal Light fruit punch (my mom drank loads of that stuff when she was on the Jane Fonda diet or something when I was in 3rd grade!?), he mentioned that we’d need to be out of there by 7am so he could get to work. We spent the morning waiting in the Bakersfield Target parking lot for it to open, because, um, someone in the band forgot their backpack and needed to buy a toothbrush, underwear, socks for the rest of the trip…. Behold the glamor.

SFOFest – What’s one thing you’re looking forward to about the SF Offside Festival?

LM – I always savor the opportunity to make music with these guys, no matter how much we’ve done it before. Every gig is a new universe of possibility.

SFOFest – Describe your band’s music in 15 words or less.

LM – Obsessive loose tight open premeditated unprecious surprising thoughtful ecstatic collective garage rock blues freedom music.

Lisa Mezzacappa’s Bait and Switch

San Francisco Offside 2012

Jazz is alive and well and living in San Francisco! So say the creators of San Francisco Offside, and the many talented local musicians taking part in this year’s inaugural festival.

Born of a passion to celebrate the unique creativity and diversity of the local jazz scene, SF Offside has gathered together some of the Bay Area’s most exciting musical talent for an event unlike any other. The three-night festival showcases notable local musicians and composers, like Marcus Shelby, David Boyce, Darren Johnston, Lisa Mezzacappa, Larry Ochs, Erik Jekabson, Aram Shelton, Eric Garland, and many more.

Night One: “Excursions” – Thursday May 24 @ El Valenciano, 1153 Valencia Street

The festival kicks off with three different ensembles with one thing in common—mastery of traditional techniques coupled with fearless commitment to exploring innovative territories. Bassist Lisa Mezzacappa opens the evening with her improvisational “garage jazz” quartet, Bait & Switch. Following is an experimental trio featuring saxophonists Dave Rempis from Chicago (the festival’s only non-local musician!) and Larry Ochs of ROVA with the ubiquitous Darren Johnston on trumpet. These Are Our Hours, a brand new quintet featuring core members of the Oakland Active Orchestra, close the evening with explorations grounded in jazz and free improvisation.

Night Two: “Onward” – Friday May 25 @ 50 Mason Social House, 50 Mason Street

The second night of the festival takes a decidedly contemporary look at straight-ahead jazz and presents three Bay Area composers and their respective trios—bassist Marcus Shelby, trumpeter Erik Jekabson, and guitarist Alex Pinto. Celebrated as a leading light of the Bay Area’s jazz scene, Shelby will perform with a fresh trio that features the talented young pianist Joe Warner and the versatile Tiffany Martin on vocals. Jekabson, respected both as a bandleader and as a sideman, brings his post-bop improvisational sensibilities to the mix, while Pinto, a young guitarist trained in Hindustani classical music (who also happens to be the festival’s co-director), has a distinctive modern sound all of his own.

Night Three: “Junction” – Saturday May 26 @ Special Location TBA

The festival closes with an evening of genre-expanding music that intersects jazz in distinctive ways. Secret Sidewalk, an innovate quintet bridging electronic/sampled music and jazz, spotlights Marcus Stephens on sax and electronics. Blending rock and jazz strategies, the recently formed Klaxon Mutant Jazz All Stars is an illustrious quintet featuring music by all five members—Eric Garland, Henry Hung, Kasey Knudsen, George Ban-Weiss, and Colin Hogan. Bay Area staple and masters of improvisation, The Supplicants, with guest drummer Hamir Atwal, end the evening with a musical journey that takes many unexpected directions. (The venue for the closing night of the festival will be announced May 21st.)

SF Offside Festival

A co-production of local jazz guitarist Alex Pinto and local music curator Laura Maguire, SF Offside was created to fill a perceived gap in the regional jazz festival circuit. With an exclusive focus on homegrown talent, the mission of SF Offside is to draw attention to the incredible creativity to be found right here in our own backyard, and to build larger audiences for specifically local jazz offerings. The hope is that San Francisco ultimately gets the recognition it deserves as home to a rich, diverse, and exceptionally talented jazz community.