Marcus Shelby


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Marcus Shelby, the bassist for the L.A.-based band Black/Note, presents his second CD as a leader, an all piano trio effort in the tradition of Oscar Peterson-Wynton Kelly-Ahmad Jamal. California pianist Matt Clark and East Coast drummer Jaz Sawyer join him for a program of Shelby originals. As much as Shelby's bell ringing, richly toned acoustic upright is in the center directing the music, it is Clark's tasteful, urgent, impressionistic musings and Sawyer's sensitive, swinging attributes that garner great attention as well. It's a very democratic trio that works well together on all eight tracks, locked solid in the modern mainstream. The CD is bookended by "The Sophisticate I" and "II," with loping, lingering zen-like waltzes which are simple rhythmically within the up and down tempo changes Sawyer spontaneously institutes, as well as more complex harmonics from Clark's standpoint. Back-to-back mid-tempo head nodding swingers "The Joylovers" and "Dance of the Mission Babies" draw from pianists Kelly, Kenny Drew and Cedar Walton without copping, a feather in Clark's cap. Easier ballads as "Time to Fall in Love Again" and "Anals Petit" showcase the bassist's persona in a clearer, defined way. Whereas Shelby takes full control with a two-note ostinato figure to light swing and back for the Jamal-ish "Marlon's Getaway," he sets up Clark and Sawyer for the straight swing of "20th & Mission" with a memorable melody that resonates with strong tuneful lines and the fleetest of bridgework from Clark's quite talented ten digits. While nothing sets this apart from other piano trios, the musicianship is of a very high level, and the compositions are thoughtfully planned and skillfully performed. Fans of this genre will relish Shelby's trio for all it's worth, and that is more than its actual price. Recommended.

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