Meet Aram Shelton

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

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.

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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 – These Are Our Hours

These Are Our Hours will be headlining the May 24th SF Offside performance at El Valenciano.  Featuring Aram Shelton on alto saxophone, Theo Padouvas on trumpet, Mark Clifford on vibraphone, Kim Cass on bass, and Sam Ospovat on drums, TAOH explores a myriad of concepts grounded in jazz and free improvisation. Get to know more about this dynamic group which will be making its debut performance at SF Offside.

SFOFest – Tell us about your first gig.

Aram Shelton – This’ll be our first gig – but we’ve all been members of the Oakland Active Orchestra, which had it’s first show in October of 2009 at the Uptown in Oakland. That was the first of a string of 12 straight monthly shows where each member was invited to bring in pieces. The original lineup had me, Tom Djll, Darren Johnston, Aaron Bennet, Philip Greenlief, Cory Wright, Rob Ewing, Marielle Jakobsons, Kristian Aspelin, Lisa Mezzacappa, Damon Smith, Jordan Glenn and Weasel Walter.

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

AS – I’d like to share a bill with the Norwegian/Swedish powerhouse band Atomic. Fantastic creative jazz music with strong writing and excellent players.

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?

AS – We need to get on the road! Once we do Theo will drive us on his motorcycle, and Sam will be late, because he’s wandering off to check something out, Mark’s bringing gelato for everyone, and I’m stressed about getting to the show on time….

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

AS –  Really looking forward to trying out some new ideas at the SF Offside Festival – and glad that there will be three nights of music showing the diversity of the scene out here in the bay.

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

AS – Creative avant jazz music with the classic lineup of saxophone, trumpet, vibraphone, bass, and drums.

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.