San Francisco has a storied background of organized crime. From the Mob ridden speakeasies of the prohibition era to the Nortenos y Suerenos that currently tug at the seams of the Mission District, the Bay Area underground has been home to every imaginable form of nefarious business over the course of the past century. It’s appropriate, then, that the ten year old Jazz Mafia collective formed as a product of the same environment.
An elite team of instrumental outlaws, The Jazz Mafia has taken many shapes since its inception, the most notable of which is certainly The Shotgun Wedding Quintet. Fresh off their nationwide tour with hip-hop stalwarts Zion I & The Grouch, and having backed many other music rebels in the studio and on the stage: Beck, Digital Underground, Lyrics Born, Carlos Santana, Mixmaster Mike, and Q-Bert, The Shotgun Wedding Quintet have recorded twelve new tales of San Francisco’s underworld. “Tales From The Barbary Coast”, the group’s sophomore album, is a Bay Area themed record with red-light district saloon-seedy stories in sync with the vibe of the California Gold Rush days where San Francisco’s Barbary Coast got its name, but executed with all the edge of right now. “Each song has it’s own character,” says Dublin, the group’s MC. “We commit to each song by dropping the instruments we played on the previous track, and picking up a whole different set of instruments for the next number to give it the right feel. What sounded like a brass band on the last song suddenly sounds like an electro slap project. There’s always that Shotgun flavor to it but our focus is total commitment to the song, so it has a life of it’s own that will last.”
Forming in 2003, The Shotgun Wedding Quintet has worked to create an illicit blend of hip hop and jazz that’s rooted in tradition, but is ever looking forward. Each member of the band is a multi-instrumentalist, making use of samplers and looping-techniques to create a wall of sound as band members shift from instrument to instrument building continuous layers of music and rhythm. As a result, this 4-piece ensemble creates the sound of a 10-piece group that is equal parts big-band and boom-bap, paying homage to the art of improvisation both lyrically and instrumentally.
“Collectively we’ve recorded on hundreds of albums, on this one we wanted to do something that we’d never seen anyone do,” says Adam Theis, Jazz Mafia bandleader/Shotgun Wedding Quintet bass/trombonist. “We took generators to the woods, recorded in giant tunnels, army bunkers and in a huge Oakland church. Many of the tracks on the record were played live as a band with minimal post production, which is very unusual these days, especially in hip-hop.”
The stomp and clap of “Bridge and Tunnel”, and pDubL’s (SWQ drummer) groove driven samples move with a hot midday vibe on a journey of rolling lyrics and melodic strings. “Bridge & Tunnel is really about North Beach in San Francisco and the Sunday morning after a big night, when the streets are deserted except for piles of litter and a few men and women scurrying away from the scene of some sort of experience they’re already regretting,” says Dublin. Speaking to an important piece of San Francisco protest history, “White Night Riot” is about the massive Castro riots after Harvey Milk was killed in 1979. “Numbers Game” is the anthem for the single guy that has no game, drinks too much, and after trying to coral every woman in the bar he ends up staggering home alone.
The Shotgun Wedding Quintet is comprised of Dublin (MC), Adam Theis (bass, synth bass, trombone, tuba), Joe Cohen (sax, organ, synthesizer, piano), and pDubL (pronounced P-Double, on drums, sampler). “Tales From The Barbary Coast” features guest appearances by Teeko, Will Blades, George Ban-Weiss, and production by Ben Yonas.
The Shotgun Wedding Quintet’s “Tales From The Barbary Coast” is available now at Jazzmafia.com.