By Dave Pehling

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A longtime figure on the Bay Area’s rock and metal scene explores a different side of music when vocalist Sven Söderlund and his Masterful Orchestra perform a free concert at the Golden Gate Park bandshell Saturday afternoon.

A well-regarded metal guitarist who came up during the rise of the thrash-metal scene in San Francisco during the early ’80s, Soderlund was raised in a musical family (both his parents played jazz) and picked up the six-string at the age of nine. By 1984, he had been invited to join then fledgling thrash outfit Mordred before eventually striking out on to found Mercenary with Mordred guitarist Danny White.

While Mercenary would only play a couple of gigs and record a demo in 1986 during it’s initial existence before imploding, the group achieved a sort of legendary status locally and in Europe as their demo was shared between metal fans. Söderlund would also work in the music industry as a roadie and guitar tech, touring extensively with Exodus and other acts.

As the ’80s turned into the ’90s, Söderlund played guitar in a number of projects (Exterminator, Morticious and Mercyful Fate tribute Hail Satan) as well as a stint in Laaz Rockit. Later, he would participate in an onstage reunion with Mercenary in the early 2000s and live performances with Mordred and Heathen. Though Mercenary would reform as an active group in 2007, more recently the musician decided to try his hand at the music he heard his parents playing during his youth.

Convening a large ensemble featuring horns and strings in 2017, the group rehearsed a set of jazz and swing standards made famous by the likes of Sinatra and Tony Bennett. Last July, Söderlund and the band he christened the Masterful Orchestra made their debut at the Bottom of the Hill, cramming onto the stage for a full house of fans. They have since performed at the Lesher Center in Walnut Creek and the Great American Music Hall.

The singer and his group celebrated the release of their debut CD with an outdoor concert at the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater in McLaren Park two years ago, drawing a big crowd to enjoy an afternoon of classic standards, Sinatra deep cuts, a song written by his composer mother and even a nod to his hard-rock roots with a swinging take on the Thin Lizzy hit “Dancing in the Moonlight.” The band returns to the stage for it’s first public performance in over a year on Saturday for this free concert in Golden Gate Park. Söderlund and company will be joined by Lara Louise, a Dutch singer-songwriter who relocated to San Francisco during the pandemic and plays tunes informed by her affection for French jazz and Brazilian bossa nova.

Sven & the Masterful Orchestra
Saturday, Nov. 20, 12 p.m. FREE
Golden Gate Park Bandshell