This will be a landmark event.
"In works by Charles Mingus and Max Roach," says the San Francisco Chronicle's Derk Richardson, "jazz once served as the musical conscience and prophetic voice of American society. Marcus Shelby keeps that truth-telling tradition alive."
A veteran of the 90s LA-based quintet Black/Note, Bay Area bassist, composer, bandleader and educator Shelby has been making a name for himself with suites for jazz orchestra inspired by large-scale works of Ellington and Mingus--works that, like Shelby's, explored themes of black history and social justice through music. (Shelby's Port Chicago appeared on several "Top 10" lists for 2006, including the RJA's.)
Mentored by Billy Higgins, a student of Charlie Haden and James Newton, Shelby has learned his lessons well. His latest piece--a jazz oratorio honoring Harriet Tubman (the libretto is based on Kate Clifford Larson's groundbreaking 2003 biography)--has all the marks of a masterpiece. Shelby has stirred up the sacred (spirituals, gospel hymns, and chorales) with the secular (blues, field hollers, and work songs), seasoned it with swing and Afro-latin rhythms, and left ample room for improvisation.
It's a potent stew.
For this performance, Shelby's 15-piece big band is augmented by three singers, one classically trained and two schooled in the blues and jazz traditions. The spotlight is squarely on the vivid stylings and vibrant scatting of Faye Carol, whose smoky, crackling voice is reminiscent of the late, great Betty Carter. Carol's bravura performance, says one critic, "reveals Tubman as a protean improviser." (Tubman, explains Shelby, regularly sent "improvised, coded messages...in the same way jazz musicians communicate using nuance and musical devices.")
"Bound for the Promised Land" premiered last May at the Yerba Buena Festival in San Francisco and was reprised, in excerpted form, in a sold-out set at SF Jazz last autumn. This will be a rare performance--one of only a small handful nationwide--of the complete score.
More Information on the Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra and "Harriet Tubman":
Tickets ($15 General
Admission, $10 Students & Seniors) are available here
at our website, or
(in late February) at The Metro, People's Records, and The Works.
Marcus Shelby will also
present a FREE public workshop on Saturday, March 8th at 11:00 a.m. in the Studio Theater (Theater Arts Bldg. Rm 115, next to Van Duzer Theatre) on
the HSU campus, and will take part in an additional panel on Social Justice and the Arts as part of the 2008 Social Justice Summit.
Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra
Faye Carol, Kenny Washington, Jeannine Anderson, Vocalists
Dave Scott, Mike Olmos, Darren Johnston, Joel Ryan, Trumpets
Danny Grewen, Marc Bolin, Scott Larson, Trombones
Marcus Stephens, Gabe Eaton, Alto Sax
Evan Francis, Tenor Sax and Flute
Rob Barics, Tenor Sax and Clarinet
Tom Griesser, Bari Sax
Adam Shulman, Piano
Jeff Marrs, Drums
Marcus Shelby, Bass and Conductor
Listen to an audio stream of music by Marcus Shelby: