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Adam Theis is a multi-instrumentalist bandleader/composer/producer based in San Francisco, CA who plays trombone, bass, trumpet, tuba and keyboards. Adam has been an active member of the San Francisco Bay Area music scene for the past 15+ years. Growing up in Sebastopol, California, Adam helped create a Jazz music awareness in the North Bay while leading many successful bands in his college years. After studying with Mel Graves, Jon English, Wayne Wallace and graduating from Sonoma State University with a degree in Jazz Composition & Performance Adam hit the road with some of the world’s best Ska bands; The Skatalites (1998/1999), Let’s Go Bowling (1998/1999), and The Specials (2001). While performing with these well-established acts, Adam’s main concentration was always on forming his own groups. In 1998 he moved to San Francisco’s Mission District and began founding the San Francisco JAZZ MAFIA which now consists of Realistic Orchestra, The Shotgun Wedding Quintet, The Jazz Mafia Symphony, Jazz Mafia String Quartet, Adam Theis & Subharmonic and many other projects.
Adam has performed with hundreds of the most well-respected Bay Area musicians and national acts including: Carlos Santana, Bobby McFerrin, Lyrics Born, KRS One, Bernard Purdie, Ruben Wilson, Clyde Stubblefield, Roy Ayers, Liz Phair, Booker T. Jones, Benny Maupin (Headhunters, Miles Davis), Stanton Moore, Mickey Hart, The New Master Sounds, Spearhead, Nino Moschella, Vinyl, Jesus Diaz y QBA, Levert, Felonious, O.G.D., Zigaboo Modeliste, Jacob Fred Jazz Odessy, Grant green Jr., Peter Rowan, Benevento Russo Duo, Robert Walter, Ok Go, Reggae Angels, Pep Love (Hieroglyphics), Bicasso (Living Legends), Lavay Smith, Los Angelitos, Elijah Emanuel, Larry Harlow (Fania All-Stars), Karl Perazzo and Avance, Candela, John Sinclair, Rupa & The April Fishes, Natasha Miller, Papa Grows Funk, and Alphabet Soup to name a few. Adam’s Horn section, the Jazz Mafia Horns is one of the most in demand sections in the Bay Area and has appeared on recordings with The Mighty Underdogs, Crown City Rockers, J Boogie’s Dubtronic Science, DJ Vadim, Bing Ji Ling, Joyo Velarde, Spencer Day, The Velvet Teen, The Disco Biscuits, The Grouch, Mikah 9, DJ Zeph and Azeem, Lateef the Truth Speaker, 4OneFunk, Rebirth, Jennifer Jons, Lunar Heights, Chali2Na, JT Donaldson, Rachel Efron, Eric Lindell, Will Bernard’s Motherbug, Headnodic, Raw Deluxe, Zachary Ross, Natasha Miller and Spencer Day.
In addition to arranging horns for hundreds of recordings and projects, Adam has co-written material for many critically acclaimed albums including 3 Zion-I albums, Lyrics Born’s “Everywhere at Once” and “As U Were” as well The Velvet Teen’s “Elysium”. Forthcoming albums form Baby Jaymes (Hiero) and Loudspeaker (Ledisi/Chief Xcel) feature extensive string/horn arrangements by Adam as well. In 2007 The Jazz Mafia horns began collaborating and touring with 80s electro legend Thomas Dolby and released “Thomas Dolby and the Jazz Mafia Horns LIVE at SXSW”. Other projects that Adam has lent his horn playing
Adam’s most adventurous orchestrations and writing can be heard on The Shotgun Wedding Quintet debut “self-titled” album and “Tales from the Barbary Coast” as well as Jazz Mafia’s Symphony Orchestra “Brass, Bows & Beats: Live in San Francisco” and “The Emperor Norton Suite”, Realistic Orchestra’s “Live at Brunos” and “Symphonies from Down The Block”. Adam has done transcriptions for numerous large scale projects, including full orchestra transcriptions, Nashville charts for Rissi Palmer and hundreds of arrangements and transcriptions for his own orchestras.
Adam’s life took on a whole new direction when he was awarded the prestigious Gerbode-Hewlett Foundation’s “Emerging Composers” Grant in 2008. With the grant commission, Adam composed new music for a one-hour concert entitled “Brass, Bows & Beats” featuring a 50-piece Symphony Orchestra of musicians and vocalists from Jazz Mafia and special guest MC Lyrics Born. The premier event was a success – selling out the Palace of Fine Arts to a sold-out show on April 18th, 2009.
Continuing the momentum and popularity of Theis’ “Brass, Bows & Beats” Yoshi’s San Francisco offered the composer a three night event in August 2009. The unprecedented Yoshi’s run which featured two performances each night played to big crowds, three of which were sell outs.
The critically acclaimed run of “Brass, Bows & Beats” has prompted Theis to campaign to take the symphony on the road in 2010. The 50 piece Symphony has since toured the North America continent, performed at Newport, Montreal, Playboy, Monterey and San jose Jazz Festivals, Stern Grove, Central Park and Grand Performances in LA and has garnered rave reviews from papers like The Boston Globe and radio features on NPR.
Adam has earned many prestigious awards, including a scholarship offer to the Berklee School of Music in Boston and winning the Jazziz Magazine’s “Brass on Fire” contest as one of the best 10 compositions by an unsigned artist in 1997. Realistic Orchestra was nominated for Best Jazz Group in the Sf Weekly’s Best of the Bay in 2003 and won the award for best Jazz Group in 2004. Adam was nominated for “Best Jazz” as a solo artist in the 2009 SF Weekly Best of the Bay. Besides writing and composing symphonies, Adam has produced the 10 Year run of “Jazz Mafia Tuesday’s” which ended in 2010 and was voted “Best Live Music Weekly Night” in SF Weekly in 2006 and 2007.
As an educator Adam has always been heavily involved in connecting with the youth. He runs the Truckee Jazz Camp, now in it’s 7th year with over 100 students. Adam has helped bring education programs to Harlem School of the Arts, Stern Grove and numerous other venues where his Orchestras have performed. Adam is also known for involving students of his and his bandmates in his performances as surprise guests frequently.