Thomas J. Story

Reveling in the coolest and hottest of the music scene

Irene Edwards,  – March 2, 2006

Marcus Shelby knows how to stand out in a crowd. Perhaps it’s the natty straw fedora he wears to catch a Sunday-night gig at a Mission District dive bar. Or the dapper silhouette he cuts in the corner booth at a swank supper club in North Beach. Whatever the occasion, he’s bound to be the most stylish guy in the room.

A bassist and composer with his own band, the Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra, he’s performed at multiple venues and events around the city; debuted an arrangement for the Oakland Ballet’s tribute to Ella Fitzgerald; founded a music label, Noir Records; and served as artist-in-residence for the acclaimed Intersection for the Arts. “I try to hit up the various jam sessions throughout the week,” he says. “As a bandleader, you need to see who’s out there.” When Shelby is spotted in the audience during a performance, he’s likely to be called to the stage for a few songs.

While some buffs still wax nostalgic about the city’s 1940s and ’50s jazz heyday, “San Francisco’s current scene is pretty healthy,” Shelby says. North Beach has the history and lush ambience; the Mission has the avant-garde acts. Like any scene, this jazz world has its regulars. During a Monday-night show at the legendary Enrico’s, Shelby points out the 1965 mural of frolicking bohemians. “See that tiny woman in the middle with the spit curl? Her name is Millie, and we’ll be seeing her tonight.” By the time the eccentric Millie makes an appearance, the place feels less like a room full of strangers and more like a party of friends.

Info: Visit for Marcus Shelby’s performance schedule. The Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra’s latest CD, Port Chicago, is available on Noir Records.

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