137

The Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra: The Lights Suite

Jack Bowers By

Sign in to view read count
A brief preamble: while spending last Thanksgiving with my wife's sister and her family in Palo Alto, CA, I had the radio tuned to KCSM-FM in San Mateo (a 24-hour Jazz station, naturally) whose weekday noontime feature is an album played in its entirety without interruption. On this particular day the album chosen was by a group I'd not heard before, the Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra. After listening for a few moments I thought to myself, "I've gotta get a copy of this!" So I made some phone calls, sent some e-mails, and three months later the postman delivered the neatly wrapped disc to my doorstep. It was worth the wait. This is a marvelous album unsparingly awash in exhilarating music, Ellingtonian in its scope, structure, subtlety and shadings, and wonderfully performed by bassist Shelby's intrepid ensemble of unsung but enormously talented San Francisco-area musicians. Its centerpiece, the four-movement Lights Suite, derives its name from Howard Korder's early-'90s play, The Lights, for whose San Francisco production Shelby wrote a new musical score. The suite is not only a labor of love but an exquisite work of art that signals the 35-year-old Shelby's emergence as a leading talent among big-band Jazz composers. Shelby also wrote the Afro-Latin charmer "Maia," which precedes the suite, and the tender ballad "Anais Petit," which follows it. The album opens and closes on a sunny note with the ageless Jazz standards "Moten Swing" and "Dinah," both arranged by Shelby. Returning to the suite, a polychromatic sketch of contemporary urban life as depicted in Korder's play, it begins with a lyrical blues, "The Lights," continues with the Dukish "Afro Mission," accompanies a displaced newcomer on a lonesome but persuasive trip through the play's unnamed city ("Portrait") and ends with the playful rhythms of "Dance of the Mission Babies." While soloists aren't named in the CD booklet or tray, we've learned from another source that tenor Rob Barics is featured on "The Lights," alto Gabe Eaton with pianist Matt Clark on "Portrait." Each of them is strikingly impressive, as are those who take their turns elsewhere on the album. The Lights Suite is one of the more admirable big-band albums we've heard in quite some time, and it's a slam-dunk that next year's Top 10 list won't be complete without it.

Contact:Noir Records, 268 Bush St., #3125, San Francisco, CA 94104; phone 415-544-9974. Web sites, www.noirrecords.com; www.msjo.org

Track Listing: Moten Swing; Maia; The Lights Suite (The Lights, Afro Mission, Portrait, Dance of the Mission Babies); Anais Petit; Dinah (51:26).

Personnel: Marcus Shelby, composer, arranger, leader, bass; Joel Ryan, Gavin Distasi, Mike Olmos, Danny Pass, trumpet; Danny Grewen, Terje Nygaard, Brutus Jeffries, trombone; Gabe Eaton, Theophilus "Hurricane" Kirk, alto sax; Rob Barics, tenor sax; Fil Lorenz, tenor sax, clarinet; Tom Griesser, baritone sax, clarinet; Matt Clark, piano; Jemal Ramirez, drums.

Year Released: 2002 | Record Label: Noir Records | Style: Big Band


comments powered by Disqus

Shop

More Articles

Read The Big Wig CD/LP/Track Review The Big Wig
by Ian Patterson
Published: May 24, 2017
Read The Dreamer Is the Dream CD/LP/Track Review The Dreamer Is the Dream
by Mark Sullivan
Published: May 24, 2017
Read Bill Evans – Another Time: The Hilversum Concert CD/LP/Track Review Bill Evans – Another Time: The Hilversum Concert
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: May 24, 2017
Read The Failure of Words CD/LP/Track Review The Failure of Words
by Glenn Astarita
Published: May 24, 2017
Read Groove Dreams CD/LP/Track Review Groove Dreams
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: May 23, 2017
Read Kami Fusen CD/LP/Track Review Kami Fusen
by Glenn Astarita
Published: May 23, 2017
Read "IIII+IIII" CD/LP/Track Review IIII+IIII
by James Nadal
Published: April 17, 2017
Read "14.11.2016" CD/LP/Track Review 14.11.2016
by Nicola Negri
Published: April 25, 2017
Read "Black Shuck" CD/LP/Track Review Black Shuck
by Karl Ackermann
Published: December 19, 2016
Read "Acceptance" CD/LP/Track Review Acceptance
by Tyran Grillo
Published: February 26, 2017
Read "Malamute" CD/LP/Track Review Malamute
by Glenn Astarita
Published: January 27, 2017
Read "Rough Enough" CD/LP/Track Review Rough Enough
by Nicola Negri
Published: August 7, 2016

Why wait?

Support All About Jazz and we'll deliver exclusive content, hide ads, hide slide-outs, and provide read access to our future articles.

Buy it!