Marcus Shelby

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Marcus Shelby
Born (1966-02-22) February 22, 1966 (age 54)
OriginAnchorage, Alaska, US
Occupation(s)Musician, composer, bandleader, educator
Years active1990—present
LabelsNoir Records

Marcus Shelby (born February 2, 1966 in Anchorage, Alaska[1]) is an American bass player, composer and educator best known for his major works for jazz orchestra, Port Chicago, Harriet Tubman,[2] Soul of the Movement: Meditations on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Beyond the Blues: A Prison Oratorio.[3] He has led the Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra since 2001 and has recorded with artists as diverse as Ledisi and Tom Waits.

He has contributed numerous musical compositions to works created in collaboration with dance ensembles and theater artists ranging from California Shakespeare Theater to Intersection for the Arts.


When Shelby was 5, his family moved from Memphis, Tennessee to Sacramento, California. Shelby played double bass briefly as a teen, but abandoned music until 1988, when he attended a Wynton Marsalis concert with his father, which inspired him to rededicate himself to music.[4]

Shelby moved to Los Angeles and began working with drummer Billy Higgins. After winning the Charles Mingus Scholarship in 1991 he studied music at California Institute of the Arts with Higgins,[5] composer James Newton, and Charlie Haden.[6]

From 1991–1996 he recorded and toured with Black/Note (credited as Mark Shelby), a hard bop group based in Los Angeles.

In 1996, he moved to San Francisco, where he founded the Marcus Shelby Trio and the Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra. He has served as Artist in Residence at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts[7] and Composer in Residence at Intersection for the Arts.

In 2013, Shelby was appointed to the San Francisco Arts Commission.

Marcus has 2 daughters Kennedy and Billie.

Major works[edit]

  • 2002: Port Chicago, 14-movement suite for jazz orchestra
  • 2007: Harriet Tubman, oratorio for voice and jazz orchestra
  • 2011: Soul of the Movement: Meditations on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
  • 2015: Beyond the Blues: A Prison Oratorio


With Black/Note[edit]

  • 1991: 43rd & Degnan (World Stage)
  • 1994: Jungle Music (Columbia / Sony Music Distribution)
  • 1994: L.A. Underground (RED Distribution)
  • 1996: Nothin' But the Swing (Impulse! / GRP)

As leader[edit]

  • 1997: Un Faux Pas!, Marcus Shelby Trio (Noir)
  • 1998: Midtown Sunset, Marcus Shelby and the Jazzantiqua Music Ensemble (Noir)
  • 1998: Sophisticate, Marcus Shelby Trio (Noir)
  • 2001: The Lights Suite, Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra (Noir)
  • 2006: Port Chicago, Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra (Noir)
  • 2008: Harriet Tubman, Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra (Noir)
  • 2011: Soul of the Movement: Meditations on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra (Porto Franco)

As sideman/contributor[edit]

  • 1994: Judgement, Robert Stewart
  • 1996: Flow, Faye Carol
  • 1998: Mortyfied, New Morty Show
  • 1998: Intimate Strangers, Marcus Poston
  • 2004: Too Good to Be True, Buford Powers
  • 2005: First Pitch Swinging, Danny Grewen
  • 2006: It's a Good Thing, Jamie Davis
  • 2006: Blue Divine, Tammy Hall
  • 2007: The Shotgun Wedding Quintet, The Shotgun Wedding Quintet
  • 2007: The Code, John Calloway
  • 2007: 12 Gates to the City, Howard Wiley
  • 2008: Extraordinary Rendition, Rupa & the April Fishes
  • 2010: On a Day Like This..., Meklit Hadero
  • 2011: Bad as Me, Tom Waits

Select collaborations[edit]

  • 1993–2006 Musical Director, Jazz Antiqua Music and Dance Ensemble
  • 1998–2004: Savage Jazz Dance Company, Musical Director
  • 2014: The Legacy of Duke Ellington: 50 Years of Swing! with California Shakespeare Theater
  • 2015: Notes from the Field: Doing Time in Education, The California Chapter with Anna Deavere Smith [8]

Awards, honors, and commissions[edit]

  • 1991: Charles Mingus Scholarship
  • 2000: Meet the Composer residency
  • 2000: Creative Work Fund commission
  • 2003: Equal Justice Society commission[9]
  • 2005: Oakland Ballet commission
  • 2006: Fellow, Resident Dialogues Program of the Committee for Black Performing Arts, Stanford University[10]
  • 2008: Bay Area Theater Critics Circle Award, Best Original Music Score, Sonny's Blues
  • 2009: Black Metropolis Research Consortium Fellowship


  1. ^ Jones, Kenneth. "Marcus Shelby Keeps Jazz Orchestra Rolling". MTV, December 21, 2000
  2. ^ Hamlin, Jesse. "Marcus Shelby marries lyrical life of Harriet Tubman with jazz". San Francisco Chronicle, October 15, 2007
  3. ^ Hamlin, Jesse. "Marcus Shelby’s musical suite on prison industry". San Francisco Chronicle, September 2, 2015
  4. ^ Scheinin, Richard. Marcus Shelby brings Ellington's 'Thunder' to Berkeley. San Jose Mercury News, April 28, 2014
  5. ^ Israel, Robyn. "Turning on 'the lights': Jazz composer Marcus Shelby keeps seeking new musical challenges". Palo Alto Weekly, June 28, 2002
  6. ^ Johnston, Richard. "Hearing the big picture: Marcus Shelby & the art of storytelling on bass." Bass Player Oct. 2008: 36+.
  7. ^ Marcus Shelby profile, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
  8. ^ Musiker, Cy. "Anna Deavere Smith Fights School-to-Prison Pipeline With New Play". KQED, July 19, 2015
  9. ^ Kamisugi, Keith. "Spotlight on Marcus Shelby". Equal Justice Society, August 15, 2014
  10. ^ Marcus Shelby Faculty Profile. Stanford Jazz Workshop

External links[edit]