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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Napa Comes To Montclair This Sunday

Even if you aren’t an oenophile, the Napa experience can be fun.  This weekend in Montclair, there’s no need to travel because the wineries will be coming to the Village.  Dubbed the Montclair Jazz and Wine Festival, this is the place to hang out on Sunday, from 11am to 6pm.

The entertainment lineup features five jazz acts, including New Orleans stylings from Brass Monkey Brass Band, organist David Matthews (not that one) who backed Etta James, vocalist Clairdee, saxophonist Vincent Herring & Earth Jazz Agents, and percussionist Pete Escovedo with his Latin Jazz Orchestra.

Wines will be poured starting at 1pm, and you pay $30/head or $50/couple for all tastings – along with commemorative glasses to use and keep.  Bring this $5 coupon for a discount, too.  You will be able to sample wines from Napa and beyond, with 29 different wineries on hand.

The crowds are large but worth battling.  This is the sixth year the Montclair Village Association has sponsored the event, and they have even invited the Guardian Angels to keep things orderly.  Wine is the main draw, although there’s beer and kids activities as well.

Most of the wines come from Northern California, or are strongly influenced by us.  To whet your appetite, here’s the complete list of who pours this Sunday:  Concannon, JC Cellars, Wente Vineyards, Tamas Estates, Twisted OakAubin Cellars, Robert Keenan Winery, Dashe Cellars, Andrew Lane Winery, Urbano CellarsCarica Wines, R&B Cellars, Cycles Gladiator, Esterlina Vineyards & Everett Ridge, Honig Vineyard & Winery, Lolonis Winery, Tarrica Wine Cellars, Mark West Winery, Watts Winery, Benzinger, L de Lyeth, Bouchard Aine & Fils, Dogwood Cellars, Unti Vineyards, Rock Rabbit Winery, Enat Winery, Beaucanon Estate Vineyards, Bonneau Winery, Chateau Beauchene.

Montclair has finally found its niche with this event.  Even with the crowds, stop by and check out the scene.  There’s free bicycle parking so you can get a little exercise, too.