The “guerrilla jazz” van known as the Bay Area Jazz Mobile is popping up in parks and parking lots, and giving paid gigs to local jazz musicians.
If you happened to be buying your weed at the BASA Collective dispensary at Divisadero and Grove Streets on Sunday afternoon, you would have seen a highly unconventional street performance happening in the parking lot. A standup bass, two conga drums, and the Amelie Anna Quintet were going at it outdoors, in an entirely planned and scheduled concert the likes of which are happening across the city, thanks to a self-described “a mobile / traveling jazz venue” known as the Bay Area Jazz Mobile.
“It’s an extraordinary concept and very timely,” vocalist David de la Torre told the Chronicle, who described him as “picking up supplies at BASA.” He added that “Live music is something that people are longing for after the pandemic we’ve been through. I salute what they are doing because musicians are always working on a shoestring.”
These aren’t just any impromptu outdoor concerts, the Bay Area Jazz Mobile pays what the Chronicle describes as “a guaranteed $195 for bandleaders and $150 for accompanying players.” The Jazz Mobile also supplies the amplifiers, drum kit, keyboard, and microphones, all kept in the Mercedes Sprinter van belonging to the Jazz Mobile’s founder, promoter, and driver Omar Aran.
The Bay Area Jazz Mobile is a full fledged 501(c)(3) nonprofit with an annual budget of $80,000. This is a pandemic-era project, but in a little over a year of existence has put on more than 160 outdoor concerts across the Bay Area. “It’s guerrilla jazz,” Aran told the Chronicle. “So far this year, we’ve provided work for 250 jazz musicians, all local.”
If you’re in town for Thanksgiving weekend, the Bay Area Jazz Mobile has two outdoor shows Saturday. Both are at North Beach’s Washington Square Park, where the jazz mobile will bust out the Edgardo Cambon Quartet (11 a.m.-1 p.m.), and the trumpet stylings of Steffen Kuehn (1:30-3:30 p.m.) Saturday’s weather forecast says it will be 66 degrees and sunny.