As part of a recent story about jazz bassist and bandleader Marcus Shelby’s work with Bay Area youth, we taped a private concert on the stage of the SFJAZZ Center. The Marcus Shelby Quintet played a song, “Social Call,” which was used in snatches and in the background for the news story. But that song stayed with us -- and we felt the band’s performance deserved a full hearing on KQED Main Stage.
“Social Call” is a sweet, lesser-known standard composed by Gigi Gryce. The lyrics describe an impulse we've all at least contemplated: the singer thinks maybe she’ll pay a strictly “social call” on an ex-lover, whose doorway she “happened” to pass. As she waits for him to answer the door, her mind wanders to what might happen “if you should try to kiss me….”
“Betty Carter was one of the people who really brought attention to that song,” says Shelby, who calls Carter “one of my biggest influences.” He notes that Tiffany Austin, who sings with the quintet, is also a Betty Carter fan -- and a fan of Carter’s version of the tune, which this arrangement echoes.
Over the last two decades, Shelby -- who leads the Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra, the Marcus Shelby Hot 7, the Marcus Shelby Quintet and the Marcus Shelby Trio -- has become a fixture of the Bay Area blues and jazz scene. A composer and educator, a San Francisco Arts Commissioner and an artist-in-residence at the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival, Shelby also collaborates regularly on theater, film and dance projects.
If you, too, find that this number lingers with you after listening, you can hear more of the Marcus Shelby Quintet next Friday, March 21, at Cafe Stritch, in San Jose. The Orchestra will play the Mondavi Winery on March 22. The Marcus Shelby Trio will play SF’s Red Poppy Art House on March 27, and the Sound Room in Oakland March 28.