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Marcus Shelby Orchestra: Soul Of The Movement: Meditations On Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Edward Blanco By

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A man with a deep social conscience and a fervent interest in social history, San Francisco bassist and band leader Marcus Shelby has previously used music to illuminate past injustices on Port Chicago (Noir Records, 2006), and then again with Harriet Tubman (Noir Records, 2008). On Soul Of The Movement: Meditations On Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Shelby once again tackles another large-scale project of social and spiritual significance expressed through his creative musical interpretations.

For Shelby, the inspiration for the album came about as part of a personal journey learning the history and principles of the Civil Rights Movement, and wanting to share the stories of that historical experience through music. In his desire to make this recording politically and socially relevant, Shelby rearranged and re-orchestrated several spiritual and freedom songs associated with Dr. King, in addition to some music written by musicians who were part of the movement, and several originals penned after personal visits to the South.

The bandleader brings the movement to life through his renowned fifteen-piece orchestra featuring vocalists Kenny Washington, Faye Carol, and Jeannine Anderson on seven of these twelve spirited tunes. All three vocalist are featured on the first two traditional folk songs, "There is a Balm in Gilead," and the familiar "Amen." The other vocal pieces include the Gospel standard, "We Shall Overcome," "Go Tell It on the Mountain," Curtis Mayfield's classic "We're a Winner," and "Black Cab (Montgomery), all highlighting solo moments from each singer.

All is not song however, as Shelby contributes several gorgeous big band arrangements, beginning with his "Emmett Till (Bobo)," showcasing tenor saxophonist Evan Francis and pianist Adam Shulman. "Fables of Faubus" features baritone saxophonist Fil Lorenz, though his name is inexplicably not stated on the individual song credits. The disc's two most ambitious instrumentals are "Birmingham (Project C)" and "Memphis (I Am A Man)," which contain excellent solos from trumpeters Mike Olmos and {{m: Howard Wiley, = 13834},} as well as Shulman and Francis, once again. Another interesting aspect of both originals are Shelby's arrangements, incorporating different melodies within each piece, with a beginning and an end, creating a medley of sorts as if each were more than one song.

On Soul Of The Movement: Meditations On Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Shelby shines new light on the music that defined the period of the Civil Rights Movement, through soulful song and exciting big band orchestrations, tastefully done with a good measure of spirit and swing.

Track Listing: There is a Balm in Gilead; Amen; Emmett Til (Bobo); Black Cab; Fables of Faubus; We Shall Overcome; Trouble on the Bus (Freedom Ride); 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).

Title: Soul Of The Movement: Meditations On Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Porto Franco Records

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