Acclaimed Bay Area bassist and composer Marcus Shelby uses jazz as a form of storytelling, exploring turning points in black history through collaborations with large and small ensembles and interdisciplinary artists.
As SFJazz's resident artistic director, Shelby programmed a fascinating slate of upcoming concerts. His residency kicks off on May 23 with Green and Blues, a collaboration with Daniel Handler, a.k.a. Lemony Snickett, best known as the author of A Series of Unfortunate Events and the accordionist in acclaimed indie band the Magnetic Fields.
On May 24, Shelby's quintet performs with noted prison abolitionist and scholar Angela Davis in Black Feminism and Blues Legacies, an evening of spoken-word poetry and music. Paying homage to jazz and blues greats Billie Holiday, "Ma" Rainey and Bessie Smith, the evening features performances from standout musicians Terri Lyne Carrington, Tia Fuller, Tammy Hall, Paula West, Tiffany Austin and Kim Nalley.
On May 25, the Marcus Shelby Orchestra performs Shelby's Black Ball: The Negro Leagues and the Blues, premiering an extended version of the piece for big band. The composition pays homage to the first black baseball players, as well as the "territory bands" that toured specific regions of the United States in the early 20th century. Concertgoers should expect surprises: clowns and physical comedy are on the agenda, too.
The residency wraps up on May 26 with a Marcus Shelby Orchestra tribute to Duke Ellington, featuring vocalists the Dynamic Miss Faye Carol and Kenny Washington, as well as violinist Mads Tolling.