By Cory Sklar
By Alee Karim
By Christina Li
By Dave Pehling
By Ian S. Port
By SF Weekly
By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
Few jazz groups would list U.K. avant-electronica duo Autechre and salsa legends Roberto Roena y Su Apollo Sound as major influences, but Spaceheater, aka Spaceheater's Blast Furnace, does — and it makes sense. The group's blend of live horns and reeds, hip-hop beats, and thick basslines is jazz for a new century, swaggering and rhythmically multilingual with instrumental chops to spare.
Serving as pivot man for the Jazz Mafia collective and its seemingly endless band offshoots, musician and composer Adam Theis may be the busiest man on the Bay Area jazz scene. Whether conducting sold-out performances of his acclaimed hip-hop symphony, Brass, Bows, and Beats, or playing frequent gigs with the Shotgun Wedding Quintet, Realistic Orchestra, and Supertaster, he shows his passion for music by playing instead of sleeping.
In recent years, veteran composer-improviser and educator Wayne Wallace has stepped out of the shadows as a world-class accompanist for Ray Charles, Sonny Rollins, and others and into the spotlight as a bandleader who also runs his own record label. In 2009, his efforts met great critical acclaim with a Best Trombonist nomination in DownBeat magazine's Critics' Poll. Wallace's Latin Jazz Quintet also played the Monterey and San Jose jazz festivals. What is SFJAZZ waiting for?
Featuring members of Troll, Tussle, and Tarentel, Bay Area–based trio the Alps serves up an instrumental smorgasbord, spanning tripped-out psychedelia and Krautrocklike excursions to evocative soundtracks for the movies in your mind. The band's most recent album, the critically lauded III, is its strongest yet, and the upcoming IV (working title) promises to expand on that foundation. Live shows are infrequent, making the Alps' recent September performance at the On Land Festival all the more special.
As Barn Owl, multi-instrumentalists Evan Caminiti and Jon Porras are San Francisco's leading purveyors of spellbinding, ethereal drone-folk. The prolific duo has released much music since 2007, including this year's CD rerelease of From Our Mouths a Perpetual Light, a mesmerizing 10-track suite reverberating with textured layers of darkly transcendent atmospherics. Barn Owl's newest vinyl LP, The Conjurer, is out now on local label Root Strata, and a European tour is slated for spring.
A collaboration among two drummers, a bassist, and an electronics manipulator, Teutonic funk quartet Tussle is a hyphenated dream. Descriptors "dub-motorik-disco" and "tribal-Krautrock-floor-filler" hint at doing the group's sound justice. Balancing metallic klang and chimeric groove in unfussy arrangements, Tussle's hybrid jams command gallery spaces and dancehalls with punctuating rhythms.
Weasel Walter strides among the worlds of avant-garde jazz, noise-rock, and free improvisation with gleefully brutal aplomb. From 1991 to 2007, the multi-instrumentalist drummed for the Flying Luttenbachers, who could make the Boredoms seem tranquil. Since moving to S.F. in '03, he has played with free-sax icon Evan Parker and local guitar prince Henry Kaiser. With the latter and bassist Damon Smith, Walter recorded Plane Crash, proving its worth as perhaps the most unfettered and ferocious power trio disc of '09.
Goh Nakamura's song "White on Rice" landed in the indie flick of the same name, and now he's off to play with the Brussels Philharmonic Orchestra at the Ghent Film Festival's World Soundtrack Awards. Clearly the onetime Invisible Cities sideman has come into his own as a solo artist — out from under his influences (Elliott Smith the most apparent) and into some exploratory, melodically fanciful, habit-forming dream pop.
Joe Goldmark & the Seducers
Pedal-steel guitar wizard Joe Goldmark has been a Bay Area constant for more than three decades. A veteran of several local country combos — Ray Price Club, Mental Revenge — Goldmark (who has also played with David Byrne) applies his razor-sharp acumen to a dazzling variety of styles. He leads his band, the Seducers, through '60s rock, soul/R&B, and even reggae classics refashioned in a refined manner that balances reverence and audacity. Not only a titan of twang, Goldmark is a complete musician.
Spouses Caitlin and Johnny Gutenberger bring a real coziness to the rainy folk of Two Sheds. She plays guitar and sings with a husky warmth, he plays bass, Jackpot's Rusty Miller plays drums, and a whole mess of friends help out with atmosphere. While working on a second album — following a 2006 debut and last year's self-titled EP — Two Sheds have recorded a few benefit tracks, including an unlikely Talking Heads cover.
Emily Jane White
By the time you read this, Emily Jane White will be on a whirlwind European tour supporting the release of her new record, Victorian America. Next spring it drops stateside, where fans of White's wistful, dusky folk — their numbers no doubt swollen by recent love from NPR — can't wait to slip back into the snug dark spaces of her songs.
Four summers ago, Midwestern transplant Greg Bird teamed up with fellow DJs Sammy D, Alland Byallo, and Craig Kuna to shore up San Francisco's minimal techno and avant-house scene against the coming tidal wave of Day-Glo rave revival. The collective's [kontrol] monthly has kept the subtle beats thumping throughout 2009, with guests from such techno centers as Berlin, New York, and Detroit along with S.F.–based talent like Sutekh, Dave Aju, and Claude VonStroke.