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[whitespace] Marcus Shelby Renaissance Musician: Bassist Marcus Shelby pursues a multitude of artistic projects, from composing and arranging to acting.

Knowing the Score

Versatile Bay Area musician Marcus Shelby shares his vision with all the performing arts

By Marianne Messina

BASSIST MARCUS SHELBY operates comfortably on a level where most people would feel "overextended." He runs Noir Records, a record label with a cutting-edge roster that includes spoken word artists. He and his trio play weekly at two San Francisco clubs. Then there's his 15-piece orchestra, which he takes to events like San Jose's annual Tapestry in Talent.

On top of all that, Shelby is composing, arranging, producing, even acting, with dance companies like Reginald Savage Dance and Jazz Antiqua. He teamed up with Reginald Savage not just because of their mutual love for Duke Ellington and Count Basie (he and Savage collaborated on an Ellington centennial celebration), but because they had "a lot of conceptual ideas in common." In the case of Ellington, for example, the idea was "to keep the freedom of jazz open without losing the integrity of the music."

In a way, Shelby is a sort of urban visionary, linking high art and genius to everyday experience. And the proof is in the caliber of like-minded people who have trusted him with their vision. The PBS American Stories series chose Shelby to musically render Ralph Ellison's "King of the Bingo Game." A deal with Chrysalis Record featured his original music in the films Higher Learning, Emitt Till and The White Man's Burden. HBO used his work in a documentary on Lenny Bruce.

This year, out of 200 applicants and through "a pretty excruciating process," as he puts it, Shelby was commissioned by the Creative Work Fund to do a project dealing with urban renewal. In coordinating The Lights, a musical adaptation of Howard Korder's (Boys' Life) play, Shelby integrates the Savage Dance company with the nonprofit Intersection for the Arts, brings in people like director Val Hindrickson, and still has time to make his own creative contribution, the music.

The Marcus Shelby Orchestra plays at Tapestry in Talent on Monday, Sept. 4, at 1:15pm on the Fuel Stage at Tapestry in Talent. Free. (408.494.3590)

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From the August 31-September 6, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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