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The San Francisco Harmonica Ensemble
San Francisco Harmonica Ensemble pic
Winslow Yerxa, Damien Masterson, Michael Peloquin, Steve Malerbi

The San Francisco Harmonica Ensemble is the brainchild of Damien Masterson -- one of those crazy "Why not?" ideas. Why not get the San Francisco Bay Area's most accomplished jazz harmonica players together to play as an ensemble? Why not team-teach a jazz harmonica ensemble class at the Jazzschool in Berkeley?

The four core members, all featured as soloists at the Summit, are Damien Masterson, Steve Malerbi, Michael Peloquin, and Winslow Yerxa. Each brings different strengths to the ensemble. As good friends with a shared obsession, they find the ideas flowing and the fun flying with great enthusiasm whenever they get together to play.

Damien Masterson, the visionary and instigator of the group, is a fluent and accomplished jazz soloist, playing chromatic harmonica exclusively (though he doubles on saxophone).

Steve Malerbi is an accomplished jazz drummer and harmonica player and is fast gaining a reputation as one of the nation's top chromatic harmonica customizers. In addition to chromatic, he plays both bass and chord harmonicas to glue the ensemble together. His smooth, genial personal style goes a long way to creating a warm presence for the group.

Michael Peloquin, as one of the Bay Area's most sought-after horn arrangers and saxophonists, brings a strong sense of detail and nuance to ensemble togetherness, in addition to tasty contributions on both chromatic and diatonic harmonicas. Michael also makes a strong contribution to the ensemble's musical arrangements.

Winslow Yerxa is known worldwide as someone who can speak with depth and lucidity on a wide variety of harmonica-related topics. He finds ways to pull together the disparate threads of the group's ambitions (and Damien's leaps of inspiration) to help make things possible. Winslow writes and arranges much of the group's material in addition to contributing on chromatic, diatonic, and bass harmonicas.