Sound Advice: Celebrating 25 Years Of Music From the Edge

Thollem McDonas and Rent Romus.

If you like your music to walk on the wild side, you’ve probably had an Edgetone encounter. Founded by saxophonist/composer Rent Romus in 1991, Edgetone Records has served as an essential conduit for many of the West Coast’s most adventurous sonic explorers, including Lisa Mezzacappa, Vinny Golia and John Tchicai. With almost 200 albums in the catalog, the Bay Area label provides a home for free improvisers and experimental chamber musicians, electronic soundscapers and jazz spelunkers.

In celebration of the label’s 25th anniversary, Outsound presents a quadruple bill at Musicians Union Local 6 in downtown San Francisco on Sunday, Nov. 20, featuring a bristling array of Edgetone artists. The lineup includes a solo set by pianist Thollem McDonas, who has forged ties around the world with his bracing blend of music and activism. McDonas has recorded extensively for Edgetone, and toasts Romus as “one of the most mind-blowing people I've known in my lifetime as a musician, organizer and all-around human being.”

The concert opens with woodwind player Keith Kelly’s electro-acoustic ensemble featuring Tony Obr on modular synth, and Nathan Hubbard and Brett Reed on drums, electronics and vibraphones. Romus himself then performs, coming full circle with two very different ensembles. He originally founded the label with a Santa Cruz concert by his band Jazz On the Line; the group reassembles for a set of its blues and gospel-infused jazz. The concert closes with Romus' Lords of Outland, a thrumming combo inspired by writers like Frank Herbert, H.P. Lovecraft, Phil K. Dick, as well as various sound strategists.

While Lords of Outland has involved several dozen musicians since Romus launched the band in 1994, in recent years the group has performed as a quartet featuring trumpeter CJ Borosque, electric bassist Ray Scheaffer, Philip Everett on drums and percussion, and Romus on voice, electronics, and alto, soprano, and C-melody saxophones. Dense and squally, spacious and playful, this is music that resets your ears.



Edgetone Records' 25th Anniversary Showcase kicks off at 7pm this Sunday, Nov. 20, at Musicians Union Local 6 in San Francisco; $10–$20 sliding scale. Details here