Marcus Shelby

Jazz bassist and composer Marcus Shelby grew up in Sacramento. Despite the lure of a promising New York jazz career and a Columbia Records deal, he made his home in San Francisco and has been a leading figure in the Bay Area’s blues and jazz scene. He’s especially known for his trio of big band suites, “Port Chicago”, “Harriet Tubman” and “Soul of the Movement,” which are steeped in his deep research of African-American history. On Friday, his 16-piece band the Marcus Shelby Orchestra will celebrate the legacy of Duke Ellington, born 115 years ago this week, with a tribute concert presented by Cal Performances at Zellerbach Hall. We talk with Shelby about his music, his career and the enormous influence and talent of jazz legend Duke Ellington.

Marcus Shelby, jazz bassist, composer, teacher and member of the San Francisco Arts Commission

  • Robert Thomas

    A week ago or so I wrote a little note on the Forum comment board about the 1959 Otto Preminger film Anatomy of a Murder, praising its stark beauty and depth.

    An indispensable aspect of this film is its Ellington – Strayhorn score.

    This extraordinary work is unique. It is art that doesn’t try to announce itself as a stand-alone opus but rather to serve in collaboration with this opera of a courtroom drama. It’s a masterpiece of precision, articulation and invention.

    Historically, it’s also the first appearance in a significant American movie of music by an African American composer that is “non-diegetic”; that is, it’s not intended to be experienced by the characters on the screen but as an expression to the viewer as distinct and thematic as the film’s cinematography or direction.

    • JimmyBlantonlives

      Very good points Robert! I too love that film and the score. It was the first film to use blues and swing as the main ingredient of a major Hollywood film score. You know 15 years earlier, Otto Preminger wanted to use Ellington’s “Sophisticated Ladies” for his 1944 film Laura, but was talked out of it by the young composer David Raksin who then wrote the theme “Laura” instead. The rest is history! “Laura” is one of the most recorded songs ever.

  • Ben Rawner

    You are so positive. I am wondering how u manage to keep so positive and creative even when thinking of and dealing with issues such as children incarceration or Harriett Tubman’s having to deal with such terrible racism in the south?

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