Bass player and composer Marcus Shelby collaborated with theater director Val Hendrickson, choreographer Reginald Ray-Savage, and Intersection for the Arts to create an original musical version of The Lights by Howard Korder. Representing a true melding of jazz and theater, the project was staged with a live 15-piece jazz orchestra and vocalist Antoine Garth. In reviewing the play, The San Francisco Examiner credited the music with setting up the piece’s “seductive irony, grit, and pure energy.”
Given the scale of the project — with Shelby’s orchestra and a full cast of performers together on stage — ODC Theatre was invited to join the collaboration. Intersection managed the pre-production and developmental stage and ODC Theater assisted with the production itself. The Lights ran for three weeks at ODC Theater with sold-out audiences most nights of the performance. A recording of The Lights Suite was released on NOIR Records in 2002.
Composer and bassist Marcus Shelby is nationally recognized for his innovative, creative, and collaborative approach to combining spoken word, dance, and music. As the 1991 winner of the Charles Mingus scholarship, his studies included work under the tutelage of acclaimed composer James Newton and legendary bassist Charlie Haden. Prior to embarking on this collaboration, in 1999 Marcus Shelby and Intersection had begun working together on a workshop and performance series, “Jazz at Intersection.” The series provided San Francisco musicians and audiences the rare opportunity to experience the history of jazz through performances of live music in an intimate and educational setting.
Intersection for the Arts, incorporated in 1965, is San Francisco’s oldest alternative art space. At the time this grant was awarded, Intersection’s theater was thriving, it hosted the oldest literary program in California that is based outside of an academic institution, and its visual arts gallery had been renovated and revitalized.
Portrait of Marcus Shelby by Peter Varshavsky