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Marcus Shelby New Orchestra: Blues in the City – World Premiere

Sat, Sep 3, 2022, 1:00pm2:30pm

Sat, Sep 3, 2022
1:00pm – 2:30pm
Great Lawn, Yerba Buena Gardens
Mission St. between 3rd & 4th Sts.
San Francisco, CA + Google Map
(415) 543-1718

Marcus Shelby is an iconic figure on the Bay Area jazz scene, and over the past 20 years the bassist, composer and bandleader has created extraordinary, historically informed musical settings for some of the Bay Area’s most exciting vocalists. His work has illuminated overlooked facets of the African-American experience, from the abolitionist movement and the Port Chicago mutiny trials to Negro League baseball. For his latest project Blues in the City he’s collaborating with San Francisco Poet Laureate Tongo Eisen-Martin and a stellar new ensemble of musicians, examining how San Francisco’s most vulnerable citizens–the homeless, the poor and BIPOC communities–have been drastically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The original suite is keyed to Nina Simone’s directive that “An artist’s duty…is to reflect the times.”

About the Artists

Marcus Anthony Shelby is a composer, bassist, bandleader, and educator who currently lives in San Francisco, California. His work focuses on the history, present, and future of African American lives, social movements, and music education. In 1990, Marcus Shelby received the Charles Mingus Scholarship to attend Cal Arts and study composition with James Newton and bass with Charlie Haden. Currently, Shelby is the Artistic Director of Healdsburg Jazz, an artist in residence with the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival, and a past resident artist with the San Francisco Jazz Festival and the Healdsburg Jazz Festival. Shelby has composed several oratorios and suites including Harriet Tubman, Beyond the Blues: A Prison Oratorio, Soul of the Movement: Meditations on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Black Ball: The Negro Leagues and the Blues, Green and Blues, and a children’s opera Harriet’s Spirit produced by Opera Parallel 2018. Shelby also composed the score and performed in Anna Deavere Smith’s Off Broadway Play and HBO feature film Notes from the Field (2019). Shelby is also the voice of Ray Gardener in the blockbuster Disney Pixar film Soul (2020). Shelby has also worked with a range of artists including Angela Y. Davis’ Blues Legacies and Black Feminism (2019), Joanna Haigood’s Dying While Black and Brown (2014), Margo Hall’s Bebop Baby (2013) and Sonny’s Blues (2008), the Oakland Ballet’s Ella The SF Girl Choir (2013), The Oakland Youth Chorus (2014), and many other productions over the past 23 years. Shelby has served on the San Francisco Arts Commission since 2013 and has worked with the Equal Justice Society for over 20 years.

Tongo Eisen-Martin, originally from San Francisco, is a poet, movement worker and educator. His latest curriculum on extrajudicial killing of Black people, “We Charge Genocide Again”, has been used as an educational and organizing tool throughout the country. His book titled, “Someone’s Dead Already” was nominated for a California Bookstore Award. His book Heaven Is All Goodbyes was published by the City Lights Pocket Poets series, was shortlisted for the Griffins Poetry Prize and won a California Book Award and an American Book Award. His latest book Blood On The Fog was released this fall in the City Lights Pocket Poets series and named one of the  New York Times poetry books of the year. In 2020, he co-founded Black Freighter Press to publish revolutionary works. He is San Francisco’s eighth poet laureate.



Blues in the City is commissioned by Yerba Buena Gardens Festival, and made possible in part by a grant from the Association of Performing Arts Professionals Arts Forward, made possible through support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Blues in the City is also made possible with support from the California Arts Council, and from California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Visit www.calhum.org.

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