Old Story, New Art Form

Using a form he calls a "secular oratorio," jazz musician Marcus Shelby wrote what we call a modern opera. Quilting together bebop, blues, gospel, and more, Harriet Tubman: Bound for the Promised Land is jazz on a grand scale. Written for a 14-piece jazz orchestra and four booming voices, Tubman tells a soaring philosophical and political story — a familiar part of U.S. history, to be sure, but one whose details, textures, and heroism benefit from a skillfully crafted, sleekly beautiful frame like this. Today, the Marcus Shelby Quartet strips the project down a bit: "Harriet Tubman and Jazz" features vocalist Faye Carol, whom audiences will remember from the orchestra's only full presentation this spring at the Yerba Buena Gardens. One of the great pleasures of a Shelby performance is hearing him speak about his inspirations, about the research he's done, and sometimes, about the bits of ideas he had to leave out. So jump at the chance to see the Tubman story in a smaller version; when it gets its full treatment next month, you'll hear even more than the people sitting around you.
Sun., Sept. 23, 2 p.m., 2007

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