He and bandmate Eric Garland, on drums, do the arranging for the Jazz Mafia Consortium, consisting of some of the Bay Area’s finest musicians. Realistic has won a local award for presenting the best weekly live music in San Francisco.
Realistic Orchestra’s sound combines classic big band and jazz elements with electronic influences, as well as guest DJs and vocalists. The group’s unique sound also includes 13 horns, drums, upright bass, keyboards and guitar. Theis plays the seven-string bass and trombone.
“Today, a full orchestra is almost unheard of,” says Theis, whose interest in big band sounds stems from his passion for arranging. His influences hark back to old Sinatra and Count Basie records, when arranging was still a part of a band’s budget before studio work began.
Since Realistic aligns itself with the masters of the past, the musicians in the band bring artistry and real musicianship into the present.
“Reading music is a lost art,” Theis says. “Although I don’t want to make all the jazz mafia band sound like we’re a bunch of nerds sitting around reading charts with music stands and all that all the time.
“Most of the other bands we’re involved in — like Shotgun Wedding Quintet, Supertaster Brass Mafia — are all just like any other band. We rehearse a lot, and don’t read music on the gigs that much. It’s just very particular to an orchestra where you have 13 to 35 musicians, it’s crucial to have it written out,” he said.
Since the 1940s, Bruno’s has offered live jazz on the small, intimate stage; Realistic Orchestra recently released its full-length album “Live at Bruno’s.”
For a little taste of history and old San Francisco, tonight the band jams a tribute to Stevie Wonder.
Another excellent musical tribute is onstage Tuesday nights in May. Back by popular demand is “She Put a Spell on Me: Kim Nalley Sings Nina SImone,” an acclaimed show that recounts the influential artist’s political and social, as well as musical, history.
The show is at Jazz’s at Pearl’s, which had been threatening to go out of business at the end of April, but has retained its lease at least through May. Nalley remains at the helm of the club as well as sings.
IF YOU GO
Where: Bruno’s 2389 Mission St., San Francisco
When: 10 p.m. today
Contact: (415) 643-5200; www.brunoslive.com
Kim Nalley Sings Nina Simone
Where: Jazz at Pearl’s, 256 Columbus Ave., San Francisco
When: 8 and 10 p.m. Tuesdays through May 27
Tickets: $20 to $100
Contact: (415) 291-8255; www.jazzatpearls.com