SF Classical Voice: Keeping Up With The Jazz Mafia / by Adam Theis

The Bay Area is no stranger to audacious endeavors that fly in the face of common sense. But even in a region where an idea can take flight and transform an entire segment of the economy, trombonist, bassist, arranger, composer, and Jazz Mafia collective founder Adam Theis had little reason to hope that an ambitious jazz/classical/hip-hop mashup would have wings.

It’s not just that creating and presenting 2009’s audacious Brass, Bows & Beats, a suite for a 50-piece ensemble, required overcoming Sisyphean logistical and financial hurdles. Theis had an expansive network of musicians to draw on, but with the economy still on the ropes after the pummeling of the Great Recession, he could have easily faced a serious Jazz Mafia beatdown. In his corner there were major grants from the Wallace Alexander Gerbode and Hewlett Foundations, and a partnership with SFJAZZ.

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What makes the Jazz Mafia such a potent brand is that Theis has attracted a disparate constellation of talent that touches just about every corner of the Bay Area music scene... While Theis is the guiding spirit, the Jazz Mafia is a confederation that has evolved in a multitude of directions driven by the creative impulses and opportunities created by different members.
— Andrew Gilbert
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