Archive for May, 2012
The San Francisco Offside Festival wound up in fine fashion the night of May 26, playing to a packed crowd.
Which was nice. A lot of work went into this first-time festival, so it’s good to see that the local audience responded. The crowd was enthusiastic, and organizers Laura Maguire and Alex Pinto were encouraged enough to pledge to do it again in 2013.
The Supplicants closed things out — a sax/bass/drums trio playing improvised jazz in a post-Coltrane spirit. It’s true that a few people started leaving by then, maybe in response to the less “tuneful” sounds as well as the fact that it was approaching midnight. I was still impressed with the number who stayed — the house still felt full, but with more elbow room — and they showed lots of excitement for each of the four pieces the group played.
David Boyce on sax was the center of attention, of course, coloring each piece with flurries of notes in a studious sheets-of-sound mode before getting into long, keening cries, passionate wails out to the jazz gods. His stage presence is bookish and reserved, but he opened up the audience early on with a crack about the lowness of the room’s ceiling — I didn’t quite catch it, but it got a laugh and probably helped humanize the set for the unconverted among us.
David Ewell on bass defined the starting mood much of the time, usually settling into a riff to set up a jamming space. Hamir Atwal on drums was apparently a sit-in but did fine work; he, too, set up the moods for Boyce’s saxophone odysseys and seemed like a great fit for the flow of the music.
The pieces didn’t feel that long, maybe seven or eight minutes. The free-form music might have taxed a few folks’ patience, but overall, I think the band really connected with the audience.
The Klaxon Mutant Jazz All-Stars preceded The Supplicants and were quite a hit. This was a pickup band organized by drummer Eric Garland, who’s been playing Wednesday nights at Amnesia with a variety of musicians. They played one another’s compositions, showing off some clever writing and of course some crack musicianship. They had a casual, warm stage presence and brought a real sense of fun to their music.
The tunes weren’t ordinary jazz fare. They started off with one of Garland’s that I think added up to 4/4 time but had the sax and trumpet playing a beat or two off from the rhythm section, creating two pieces intertwining in a non-intuitive way. It was a nice effect and also catchy. Subsequent songs would play similar tricks with rhythm, keeping us on our toes.
Trumpeter Henry Hung had one composition called “Jamie Moyer” — the only song title I remember, because I got the joke. Moyer is a 49-year-old major league pitcher (that’s forty-nine) who’s known for a slow fastball that, for whatever reason, can be unhittable. The song, towards the end, appropriately playing with that, alternating on a rhythm played fast and then slow, with each slow part slower than the last. It got some laughs, even from the non-baseball fans. (Shortly after the show, the Colorado Rockies began the process of cutting Moyer, but his fastball is immortalized in a passage of the book Moneyball.)
I missed Secret Sidewalk, which had opened the evening and apparently put on an amazing show.
BayTaper was apparently there, so some recordings might be available online eventually. Meantime, you can catch a full Festival post-mortem at Untapped SF, complete with pictures. (I’d forgotten my camera.)
Big thanks to Laura and Alex for getting this whole thing put together. Here’s hoping it’s the first SF Offside of many.
What I like about the site for the San Francisco Offside Festival — a local-jazz showcase that ends Saturday night — are the little interviews with the bands. They’ve done a good job putting together a blog that introduces the artists by having them answer a fixed set of questions, then introduces their music and their influences via YouTube and Vimeo clips.
I like the answer Lisa Mezzacappa gave about being on the road. “Behold the glamor!”
I’ve been mostly underwater for the month of May, out of town for two weeks, shuttered away in work for a third. I did get to see some music in New York (oh yes), which was a nice break, but haven’t had time for anything while in town. Tonight is my last chance, and yours, to get in on the fun.
The lineup — with links that go back to the SF Offside blog is:
- Secret Sidewalk (three synths, sax, and drums — this is going to be different)
- Klaxon Mutant Jazz All-Stars (a more traditional-lineup quintet, but they’re fans of Kneebody, so this should be lively)
- The Supplicants (longtime sax/bass/drums trio). BayTaper.com has an excellent little record of a 2010 show at the Red Poppy Art House, complete with video.
The venue is Viracocha, in the Mission District.
Do check out the SF Offside site; it’s got press clips and information about tickets. They’ve put an impressive amount of work into this. Should be a great show tonight.
I finally made it down to Active Cafe in Oakland, and it’s a heck of a nice place.
Since being told about it by Jacob Zimmerman, who’s organizing the Actual Jazz Series on Sundays there, I’ve been hoping to check it out. Sunday evening is a tough proposition for me — ideal time to cook dinner with the kids — but I finally made the trip a few weeks ago, catching the April installment.
It’s situated on a corner, and on a nice day with all the doors open and the Bay breeze coming in, it’s an ideal neighborhood hangout. The place was crowded most of the time I was there, a healthy sized crowd for a Sunday near dinnertime.
Some fraction of them were there to see the Eric Nakanishi Quintet, teenage beboppers who played the afternoon’s first set of jazz. They were pretty good, with Nakanishi himself showing some nice skills on sax. I was also impressed with the keyboardist, Matt Wong, who put up some nice solos and some creating comping choices. They did some snappy and crowd-pleasing stuff, including a Latin take on one oldie — “Oleo,” IIRC.
Anteater played second, showing off longer pieces with a freer structure. Some of the crowd who had loved the party-tune atmosphere of the first act did stay for Anteater, and even if they weren’t converted, they were at least appreciative.
The difference in the level of play was evident, especially in the case of bassist Kim Cass, climbing up and down the fingerboard rapidly during some captivating solos. Overall, he played the kind of assertive, forceful bass that helps a trio really stand out. Zimmerman (who showed off some circular breathing technique) and drummer Sam Ospovat were terrific as well. The pieces were longer, and the group took a chance very early in the set by playing a very quiet stretch, something that could be just death in a restaurant setting. But the audience respectfully stuck with the music and seemed pretty happy with the results.
Actual Cafe is a small venue but very inviting. They’re doing a lot of work to cultivate a community atmosphere — supporting the idea of bicycling the neighborhood, hosting weekly bingo games, serving up Bay Area microbrews. The music shows seem to be working, as they’ve added John Schott’s trio playing monthly as an adjunct to the Actual Jazz Series — and with the doors open, they can advertise the music to the street. It’s a nice place, and the vegan tomato soup I had was a nice treat.
Ross Hammond — Adored (Prescott Recordings, 2012)
Adored shows off an exciting combination of ideas, with psychedelic rock jamming executed by one heck of a free-jazz backing band from L.A.: Vinny Golia (sax), Alex Cline (drums), and Steuart Liebig (bass).
It’s also got a nice link to the In the Flow Festival, which I’d mentioned previously. Guitarist Ross Hammond, organizer of the festival, lives in Sacramento and is responsible for Nebraska Mondays, the weekly creative-music series at Luna’s Cafe. Those activities gather musicians from the whole pan-California jazz/improv world.
On Adored, Hammond is working with some of the all-stars of the Southern California scene, producing some exciting results. Everyone here has done his share of mixing rock and jazz ideas, particularly Liebig, whose band The Mentones mixes barroom rock with prog/jazz virtuosity. (You’ll find them on the pfMentum record label.)
“Sesquipedalian” is a cosmically unfolding jam, with the guitar and sax spiraling outwards from the get-go. An improv cool-down middle stays just as active, with Golia bleating away and Liebig adding some ninja-quick electric bass riffs. Golia and Hammond similarly jam on “Maribel’s Code,” a calmer outing but not at all sedate. Over a steady foundation of drums and bass, the sax and guitar each take a turn at scribbly, intense soloing.
Maybe I’m taking the psych comparison too far, but there’s a bit of Santana in the guitar sound — the sublime, bluesy “She’s My Little Girl” being a prime example. The best moments, though, are when the band takes the idea of a psych jam and uses their talents and knowledge to stretch it further. Most of “Hands Up” is a choppy and grumbly group improvisation, with lots of different directions knitted together — and then, out of the blue, there’ll be a bashing rhythm from Cline for a moment of rocking-out bliss.
“Water Always Finds Its Way, Like the Soul” ends the album with a glorious comedown, full of lovely major-key tonalities (Wayne Peet helps out on piano) but just as much fever as some of the prior tracks.
It’s good stuff. Have a listen over at Bandcamp.