DJ Qbert joins Jazz Mafia at Fillmore 

click to enlarge World Champ DJ Qbert will improvise with Jazz Mafia Symphony Saturday night at the Fillmore. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • World Champ DJ Qbert will improvise with Jazz Mafia Symphony Saturday night at the Fillmore.

Two quintessentially American art forms — jazz and turntablism — collide at the Fillmore on Saturday during Jazz Mafia Symphony’s adventurous, 12-year anniversary blowout featuring DJ Qbert, a world champion battle DJ.

Jazz Mafia Symphony will play commissioned works such as “The Emperor Norton Suite” and “Brass, Bows, and Beats” with DJ Qbert on turntables as part of a celebration for the loose Jazz Mafia collective. The shape-shifting collective started in 2000 in the Mission district and infuses jazz with soul, funk, hip-hop and electronic music.

Relentless, regular local live shows and touring have earned it a global fan base.

Twelve years into the game, the well-loved, road-tested crew focuses on quality over quantity, says Adam Theis, bandleader and Mission district resident. Jazz Mafia Symphony can be as big as 60 players. Saturday’s show boasts a 35-piece orchestra, plus a huge supporting lineup that includes Forrest Day, Shotgun Wedding Quintet and Realistic Orchestra, comprising about 45 to 50 performers for the night.

“This is the huge deal for us,” Theis says. “It’s really something that’s only going to happen once in this configuration.”

“I think that’s why we took the big risk,” he says. “We said, ‘We believe in our fans, they believed in us this whole time. Let’s just go for it, let’s put on, basically, a local jazz show at the Fillmore.’”

Meanwhile, Excelsior district native Qbert, 43, won his first DJ World Championship in 1991, and co-founded turntablism pioneers Invisibl Skratch Piklz. Jazz Mafia and Qbert hit it off when San Francisco producer Dan the Automator paired the two for a loose, improvisational live show.

“These are real musicians. Not like us DJs. We’re kind of just winging it,” Qbert says. “It’s a beautiful thing to learn from these guys. They really know what’s going on.”

The feeling seems mutual. “As a musician, he’s on par with college-trained jazz guys and natural singers,” Theis says. “Among DJs, he’s the guy everyone looks up to.”

Amid a busy year of touring, Qbert says he’ll release a new LP, and he invites the public to an open house Saturday at his Millbrae headquarters, Thud Rumble. And his “Treat Social Club” — an invite-only, experimental underground music night — has turned into a commercial success. “I feel super-lucky,” he says.

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David Downs

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