Marcus Shelby Orchestra: Soul Of The Movement: Meditations On Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (2010)
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Soul Of The Movement: Meditations On Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr is a beautiful album. Bassist, composer and arranger Marcus Shelby was inspired to put the album together by his study of the Civil Rights Movement and, in the combining of his own original compositions with spirituals and tunes associated with the movement, he has created a most affecting and uplifting recording, performed with passion by the superb 15-piece Marcus Shelby Orchestra.
Shelby's own compositions take their inspiration from turbulent and at times tragic events, but the overwhelming feel of the music is one of optimism and positivity. His orchestrations are superb, adding to the power of the songs and in one or two casesa groovy swing style arrangement of John W. Work's "Go Tell It On The Mountain," for exampleoffering new perspectives on old established favorites. They bring the best out of the musicians in their ensemble playing and also offer many opportunities for some fine solos.
Shelby's punchy orchestration of Charles Mingus' "Fables of Faubus" stays fairly close to the composer's own, and benefits from Mike Olmos' great muted trumpet solo and trombonist Joel Behrman's rich, throaty sound; Shelby's own playing is tough and funky, too. By contrast, his arrangement of Curtis Mayfield's "We're a Winner" makes use of a small ensemble centered on Shelby, Matt Clark's Hammond B3 organ, and Jeff Marrs' drums, with a superb tenor sax solo from guest Howard Wiley, and Faye Carol's soulful lead.
Shelby's "Black Cab (Montgomery)" celebrates the unofficial transport system that developed during the 1955-56 bus boycotts. Upbeat and swinging, it features a great vocal, and scat solo, from Kenny Washington - Vocals, and fine instrumental solos from, among others, tenor saxophonist Sheldon Brown and pianist Adam Shulman. All of Shelby's compositions make full use of the power and tonal variation of the big band line-up, with the bassist's arranging skills perhaps best displayed on "Trouble on the Bus (Freedom Rides). Even though Marrs' drumming and Gabe Eaton's alto solo stand out, every instrument impacts on the success of the tune.
Much of the album's emotional strength comes from the vocalists, who invest every note of their singing with humanity and passion. Soprano Jeannine Anderson sets the bar high with her solo on the traditional "There is a Balm in Gilead," then joins Carol and Washington for a powerful vocal trio on another traditional, "Amen." On Thomas Dorsey's "Take My Hand Precious Lord," backed only by the excellent duo of Wiley and pianist Sista Kee, Carol and Washington deliver a vocal duet of immense physical and emotional power, which seems to sum up everything that Shelby hopes to achieve with this recording.
While Shelby must take the lion's share of credit for this recording, everyone involved deserves acknowledgement for their part in its success. Soul Of The Movement is an inspired, and inspiring, album.
Track Listing: There is a Balm in Gilead; Amen; Emmett Till (Bobo); Black Cab; Fables of Faubus; We Shall Overcome; Trouble on the Bus (Freedom Rides); Birmingham (Project C); Go Tell It On The Mountain; We're A Winner; Memphis (I am a Man); Take My Hand Precious Lord.
Personnel: Marcus Shelby: acoustic bass, conductor; Gabe Eaton: alto saxophone; Marcus Stephens: alto saxophone; Sheldon Brown: clarinet, tenor saxophone; Evan Francis: flute, tenor saxophone; Fil Lorenz: baritone saxophone; Joel Behrman: trombone; Rob Ewing: trombone; Mike Rinta: trombone; Louis Fasman: trumpet; Scott Englebright: trumpet; Mike Olmos: trumpet; Darren Johnston: trumpet; Mark Wright: trumpet; Adam Shulman: piano; Sista Kee: piano; Matt Clark: B3 organ; Jeff Marrs: drums, percussion, vocals; Faye Carol: vocals; Jeanine Anderson: vocals; Kenny Washington: vocals; Howard Wiley: soprano saxophone (11), tenor saxophone (10, 12).
Record Label: Porto Franco Records