Rock and jazz join the circus
Violinist Shaina Evoniuk found her province in 2009 when she walked into a Jazz Mafia rehearsal in the Mission District of San Francisco.
"I didn't know anyone in the room, but they've turned into my family and friends," the Ashland native says during a telephone interview. "They were shooting press photos that day, and I have those pictures of the first day we met."
Jazz Mafia is a collective of artists who collaborate within many multifarious groups: The Shotgun Wedding Quintet, a crossover of live electronica and hip-hop; Realistic Orchestra, futuristic big band music; Western Territory Project, a classical and jazz crossover; Subharmonic, electronic jazz; brass band Brass Mafia; dusty funk band Crossroads; acoustic heavy metal band Cosa Nostra (led by Evoniuk); and the 50-piece Jazz Mafia Symphony.
"Music and style is what defines each group," Evoniuk says. "Since it is a collective, new and different artists and composers perform within each show."
It's all the brainchildren of composer, musician and bandleader Adam Theis. Theis' fourth-grade music teacher introduced him to jazz, gospel and Jamaican rhythms. While part of a garage band during his junior year of high school, he and his group found themselves locked out of their rehearsal space and were left only with horn instruments. They decided to play the band's songs on horns. That was the pivotal point that changed Theis' perception of jazz.
"His inspiration is endless," says Evoniuk, who will marry Theis in June.
One such inspiration — Jazz Mafia Accomplices — initially formed as a band for San Francisco-based circus troupe Vau De Vire Society’s "The Soiled Dove" shows. Since then, it's become an entity of its own and throws down an eclectic mix of freestyle hip-hop, audacious electro-swing and fierce fiddle and flute battles, all through the sensibilities of 21st-century jazz musicians.
Often composing original, circus-infused music with immersive storylines, The Accomplices play surprising material with unexpected twists, according to its web page.
Evoniuk, along with members of Jazz Mafia Accomplices — Theis on bass and trombone, Jonathan Sieberlich on tuba, Trance Thompson on vocals and keys, Teddy Raven on tenor sax, Chris Paxton on drums, Colleen Courtney on vocals and Ross Eustis on trumpet — will perform at 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 24, at RoxyAnn Winery, 3285 Hillcrest Road, Medford. Admission is $10. See roxyann.com or call 541-776-2315.
Rock band L.E.F.T. — featuring electric Dobro player and Shaina Evoniuk's father, Bob Evoniuk, along with singer and guitarist Bret Levick, Greg Frederick on bass, Don Harriss on keys and Matt Terreri on drums — will open the show.
Accomplices and L.E.F.T. will do some collaborating of their own.
"We have a few surprises up our sleeves," Shaina Evoniuk says. "It's been fun playing music with those guys and coming up with cool things we can do together. They're the best."
The RoxyAnn show will include a few of Evoniuk's compositions.
Evoniuk graduated from Ashland High School in 2004. She joined Siskiyou Violins when she was 12, studied under Faina Podolnaya, and performed with the ensemble at Carnegie Hall. She also was a musician with Youth Symphony of Southern Oregon, where she was mentored by Cynthia Hutton.
"I don't think I could have made it as a musician without Cynthia," Evoniuk says. "She really got me through some sticky times."
Evoniuk won YSSO's Concerto Competition her junior year and performed Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto as a soloist with the youth symphony the following year. After graduation, she left Ashland to study at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, finishing with a bachelor's degree in violin and performance.
"After that, I was just sort of at odds," Evoniuk says. "I played some gigs and taught some classes, and I thought about moving to New York because that's what musicians do, but I hadn't really found my niche. I hadn't found my people."
Then Theis rang her out of the blue and asked if she could rehearse and perform in his new symphony.
"I said I couldn't be at all the dates, and he said I could rehearse and perform the two days that I was available," she says. "Which is really weird. They usually want you to commit to all rehearsals and performances.
"So I went to a rehearsal. It was a cosmic experience. I found my people."