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Digging in the Garden 

Wednesday, Apr 28 2010
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Playing quietly: It's cause for suspicion when children do it. We feel sort of the same way about really great Bay Area artists — if we haven't heard from them in a while, we start to suspect they're making something. Far from the mess in the kitchen one suspects from too-quiet kids, though, we usually figure the artists are busy coming up with some exciting new thing for us to enjoy. In the case of Marcus Shelby, we're so, so right: To kick off the truly huge and free Yerba Buena Gardens Festival, the Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra performs the world premiere of his second "secular oratorio," as he calls his jazz-operatic historical storytelling pieces. The last one was called Harriet Tubman: Bound for the Promised Land, and this one is simply MLK. Using deep and critical looks into the history of the civil rights era, Shelby rearranges gospel, blues, work songs, shouts, spirituals, and jazz from the 1950s and '60s, noting that King himself said, "Freedom songs and spirituals were the 'soul' of the movement."

The Yerba Buena Gardens Festival runs May-October.
Sat., May 1, 1 p.m., 2010

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Hiya Swanhuyser

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