Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra: A Wow!

The Montclair Jazz and Wine Festival kicked off today with an amazingly talented group, the Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra.  Their erudite brand of jazz truly rates as a wow!

Leader Marcus Shelby burrows into historical subjects and then emerges with jazz masterpieces.  He thinks about his music as educational, story-telling opportunities.  Today in Montclair, we were treated to several finely polished performances, highlighted by a piece honoring Rosa Parks and the civil-rights movement.

Forgive the snapshot quality below, as it’s very overcast today.  First, you see the lucky festival-goers who showed up early enough to hear Marcus and his performers.  The crowd was relatively sparse around noon, but the orchestra was still very focused and doing their thing.

Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra - 1

Next take a look at Marcus Shelby, who’s the band leader as well as guy on the bass.  His back was to the audience and we love how his silhouette frames the other players to the right.  Also you can (sort of) see the players with music on their stands, as the Rosa Parks piece is a relatively new work.

Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra - 2

Finally, check out the orchestra players.  You can see them playing their hearts out, and we wish we had been able to record them because the music was soulful and, well, meaningful.  There was a full contingent of brass, which certainly added to the aural punch.

Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra - 3

We were concerned about the fate of the Montclair Jazz and Wine Festival during the 2009 recession, but organizers have done a stellar job turning this celebration into an Oakland Funds For The Arts fundraiser this year.  The music is obviously top notch, and there are still a few more acts left this afternoon…plus the vino’s getting poured for wanna-be oenophiles.

More info:   Listen to or watch Marcus Shelby on My Space and You Tube.  Read more about Shelby on his web site and the Jazz Examiner.  Check out the reviews for his Harriet Tubman disc (2008) at East Bay Express, SF Weekly and All About Jazz.

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