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Adam Theis’s Insane Jazz Marathon

A man, a plan, a tuba—inside Theis's four-night stand at SFJazz.

Adam Theis. 


Composer Adam Theis is a bit of a multitasker: He plays five instruments (trombone, bass, trumpet, tuba, and keyboard), founded San Francisco’s Jazz Mafia, has arranged hundreds of horn pieces, and collaborates with everybody from KRS One and Lyrics Born to Carlos Santana and Bobby McFerrin. “I guess I’ve got a little ADD,” Theis says. “It’s hard to do just one thing.” This month at SFJazz, he’s leveling up with four concerts on four consecutive nights, with four different bands playing four different styles of music. Sure, it seems excessive—that’s the idea.

NIGHT 1: The Western Territory Project
What to expect: A cocktail of classical, jazz, funk, tango, and a little American bluegrass. “Strings can be funky too,” says violinist Alisa Rose. “And the sousaphone has a really great groove.”

NIGHT 2: The Tiffany Austin Quartet
What to expect: Soulful vocals married with an organ and a synth and ahornanda didgeridoo. “We’re going to do everything from a scatting swing song to a gut-bucket soul-blues tune,” says lead singer Tiffany Austin. 

NIGHT 3: Wil Blades and Joe Bagale Mega Trio
What to expect: Funk and jazz with rock overtones played by an organ trio that does whatever crazy thing it wants. “The possibilities are endless,” says drummer Bagale. “At our last gig together, we all traded instruments impromptu.”

NIGHT 4: The Mingus Ah Um Project
What to expect:
Mid-century jazz god Charles Mingus’s masterpiece 1959 album, but renovated. “We’re doing some things from a Mingus perspective,” says Theis, “but also breaking his stuff down to its essential parts.”


Originally published in the March issue of San Francisco

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