Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

382

Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra: Port Chicago

Jack Bowers By

Sign in to view read count
Are you aware of Port Chicago, and do you know what happened there more than sixty years ago? Chances are you don't, as it's not something American history books will likely mention or military recruiters point to with pride. In brief: on July 17, 1944, a massive explosion at the Port Chicago Naval Base (near Oakland, California) killed more than 320 men, most of them African-American sailors, and injured some 400 others, by far the worst disaster on US soil during World War II.

When 258 black sailors protested the unsafe conditions—and the fact that they alone were assigned the task of loading ammunition onto ships docked at Port Chicago—the Navy called their work stoppage mutiny and convened a court martial, at which fifty black sailors were unfairly convicted by their white superior officers. Although the imprisoned sailors were released under a general amnesty at the end of the war, their convictions for mutiny have never been overturned.

To honor the sixtieth anniversary of the Port Chicago "mutiny, the Equal Justice Society commissioned an extended jazz work by composer/bassist Marcus Shelby, and his fourteen-part suite, written in collaboration with Robert L. Allen, author of The Port Chicago Mutiny, was performed for the first time in 2004 at the African American Museum and Library in Oakland.

The suite (sans Val Hendrickson's libretto) is now available on CD, and it is an incisive and powerful evocation of the events leading up to and following the horrific and deadly blast at Port Chicago. Written "in the tradition of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, the suite uses musical devices from swing to Afro-Hispanic rhythms, twelve-tone serial concepts, and even the European waltz to paint a dramatic portrait of the Port Chicago of 1944 and the events surrounding the so-called mutiny and the conviction of those who allegedly provoked it.

Depicting such soul-stirring events musically is a daunting task, but Shelby and his fifteen-piece Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra carry it off brilliantly. From the jazzy rhythms of the "Opening Dance, "Training Day and "Big Liberty Blues to the somber "Introduction" and "Call to War, the balladic "Sweet Brownness and "After, the wearisome "Barracks Life," the shocking "Explosion and abstractions of "Mechanized Women, "Black in Blue," "Work Routines and "Exoneration," one can derive at least a momentary sense of the spirit and character of life as it was for the ill-fated sailors and their comrades at Port Chicago.

This is the second thematic album by the MSJO (following The Lights Suite, 2001), and each one has served to enhance Shelby's credentials as a composer/arranger of remarkable insight and ability. Ensemble and soloists are superb, recorded sound exemplary, playing time as generous as can be. In fact, the entire package, including liner notes and photographs, is first-class. Warmly recommended.

Visit Marcus Shelby on the web.


Track Listing: Act 1: Introduction; Opening Dance; Call to War; Training Day; Mechanized Women; Work Routine; Barracks Life; Black in Blue. Act 2: Work Routine 2; Big Liberty Blues; Sweet Brownness; Explosion; After; Exoneration (76:54).

Personnel: Marcus Shelby: composer, arranger, conductor, bass; Dave Scott, Erik Jekabson, Darren Johnston, Joel Ryan: trumpet; Gabe Eaton: alto sax; Marcus Stephens: alto sax, clarinet; Rob Barics: tenor sax, clarinet; Evan Francis: tenor sax, flute; Tom Griesser: baritone sax; Danny Grewen, Scott Larson: trombone; Marc Bolin: bass trombone; Adam Shulman: piano; Jeff Marrs: drums.

Title: Port Chicago | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Noir Records

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Read World Gardens CD/LP/Track Review
World Gardens
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: December 14, 2018
Read Henry II CD/LP/Track Review
Henry II
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 14, 2018
Read Conference Of The Mat/ts CD/LP/Track Review
Conference Of The Mat/ts
by Mark Corroto
Published: December 14, 2018
Read Hidden Treasures Vol. 1, Monday Nights CD/LP/Track Review
Hidden Treasures Vol. 1, Monday Nights
by Chris Mosey
Published: December 14, 2018
Read Âme Sèche CD/LP/Track Review
Âme Sèche
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 14, 2018
Read Fred Hersch Trio '97 @ The Village Vanguard CD/LP/Track Review
Fred Hersch Trio '97 @ The Village Vanguard
by Doug Collette
Published: December 13, 2018
Read "Never Bet The Devil Your Head" CD/LP/Track Review Never Bet The Devil Your Head
by Chris Mosey
Published: April 10, 2018
Read "speak between" CD/LP/Track Review speak between
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: August 3, 2018
Read "Nomadic Treasures" CD/LP/Track Review Nomadic Treasures
by Mark Sullivan
Published: May 28, 2018
Read "The Sky Above Her" CD/LP/Track Review The Sky Above Her
by Troy Dostert
Published: November 20, 2018
Read "In Common" CD/LP/Track Review In Common
by Roger Farbey
Published: October 23, 2018
Read "Undercurrent - Live at Theater Gutersloh" CD/LP/Track Review Undercurrent - Live at Theater Gutersloh
by Glenn Astarita
Published: May 9, 2018