The mood at Other Minds 25 — an anniversary celebration for Other Minds, the San Francisco-based arts organization dedicated to new and experimental music — was one of relief.
The four-day festival of improvised jazz had been a long time coming. The event was scheduled and rescheduled three times during the pandemic, and beset with frequent lineup changes. A month before OM 25 was to take place, trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith bowed out at the behest of his doctor, and hopes of securing bassist Joëlle Léandre for a performance were scuttled by travel restrictions.
During every pre-performance introduction by Other Minds’ staff or the festival’s curator Harry Bernstein, and the panel discussions with the performers facilitated by jazz critic Nate Chinen, the repeated refrain was one of a metaphorical weight being lifted. Though everyone in attendance remained masked and had to show proof of vaccination to enter the space, it felt, as OM co-founder Charles Amirkhanian dubbed it, as if the “grand pause” that caused so many gatherings to be canceled was — for at least one long October weekend — over.