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Marcus Shelby: Jazz & Baseball

The bassist and bandleader explores the legacy of the Negro Leagues as part of a new album from his orchestra

Bassist, composer and bandleader Marcus Shelby (photo by Scott Chernis)
Bassist, composer, and bandleader Marcus Shelby (photo: Scott Chernis)

Marcus Shelby loves baseball. His Facebook posts tend to be daily updates on the ups and downs of his favorite team, the San Francisco Giants, who are currently in rebuilding mode and therefore experiencing more of the latter than the former. The bassist and composer’s appreciation for the sport recently resulted in new music for his orchestra, which has been playing together for more than 20 years. Their new album Transitions features several compositions inspired by Shelby’s research into the Negro Leagues of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He premiered them as an artist-in-residence at SFJAZZ and also performed them as part of his long-running relationship as a curator with the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival in San Francisco.

This isn’t the first time the Memphis-born Shelby has taken a deep dive into an area of African-American culture and history. In Soul of the Movement, he paid tribute not only to Martin Luther King, Jr., but also to the many other leaders, and even some foot soldiers, in the civil rights movement. In 2008 he presented and recorded a suite dedicated to the legacy of Harriet Tubman, the renowned abolitionist and political activist of the 19th century, known for her work with the underground railroad.

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