Marlena Shaw’s Bluenote bio speaks of an extroverted stage presence. She sang with a purposeful spirit, every phrase got a life all its own all the while weaving a narrative all her own. She expertly blended the best qualities of pop with the sophistication of the energetic stylings of jazz. Al Hibbler, who sang with the Duke Ellington Orchestra, was an early influence. His early R&B style is embedded in Marlena Shaw’s artistry.

Shaw’s cavalier blending of genres made her popular with the Rare Groove movement in the UK in the 1970s. The term describes a music with an essential groove as its backbone and foundation. The movement reflected a time of social and political conflict and challenge finding ready acceptance with black and white audiences and solidifying positive ideals of unity and inclusivity. Her music became popular with earlier hip hop artists who sampled some of her tracks. Marlena Shaw’s impression reached widely, setting a groove that found a truly groovy kind of artistic landing at the ears.