Meet Marcus Stephens

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.biopictrio

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

The Latest from Offside!

It’s hard to believe that it has been almost five months since the festival! Our heads are still spinning…

A huge thanks to all the incredible composers and musicians that contributed their talents, and to everyone in the community who supported our vision in so many ways. We were blown away by the response to the festival and are excited to keep working on this project going into 2013.

Which gets us to the first piece of news we’d like to share! We are delighted to announce that San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music just accepted our application for fiscal sponsorship. That means that as SF Offside moves forward, we will be in a better position to find donors and apply for grants so that we can cover all our expenses and adequately compensate all the performing artists that make SF Offside what it is.

Without a doubt, SFFCM is a great fit for Offside. Just check out their five-week Sunday series JAZZ+ at the de Young Museum, which features Offside alums Lisa Mezzacappa, Erik Jekabson, Marcus Shelby, Kasey Knudsen, and David Ewell. Continue reading

Get to Know the Bands of SF Offside – Secret Sidewalk

Secret Sidewalk will open SF Offside’s third and final night of programming on May 26th at Viracocha. Originally started as a live electronic beat band by Mike Boo, Alex “Pu22l3” Abalos, and Asonic Garcia, Secret Sidewalk organically transformed into a Bay Area Voltron when joined with the amazing musicianship and likeminded experimentation of saxophonist Marcus Stephens and drummer Mike Reed. Get to know the genre-bending group, Secret Sidewalk.

SFOFest – Tell us about your first gig.

SS – The first gig as a trio was 4/20/10 at Som Bar for Change the Beat, a monthly presented by Mophno. The first gig for the full quintet took place at Coda’s Slumpnight. The night was hosted by Aspect McCarthy. No one in the band remembers the date but fun was had and faces were potentially melted.

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

Our dream opening slot would be for either Portishead, MF Doom, or Stark Reality.  If none of those acts were free, we’d settle for a spot opening for one of Herbie Hancock’s electric bands.

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?

SS – When we’re on the road, Mike Boo is the driver, Asonic is the chef, Mike Reed is the baker, Alex (Pu22le) is too busy to do anything because he’s building a new cell phone, and Marcus throws amplifiers.

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

SS – We look forward to raising eyebrows and tilting heads at the Offside Festival.

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

SS – Our music is from the BAY!  Electro-acoustic music by and for people
with eclectic tastes.

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.

RSVP