Aram Shelton’s latest presents another strong set of material from an alto saxophonist who should be getting more recognition for his prolific output and busy schedule. While his release earlier this year of duets with drummer Kjell Nordeson might have been more of a specialized interest, Shelton’s quartet presents a full picture of his inventive writing and spunky soloing.
The band includes tenor saxophonist Keefe Jackson – who compliments Shelton so well that it’s sometimes hard to tell who’s who when their ranges overlap (they’re panned towards different channels) – bassist Anton Hatwich and drummer Tim Daisy (who replaces original quartet member Marc Riordan). Shelton cites Ornette Coleman and Charles Mingus as influences on the group but it’s more a case of taking inspiration from them rather than trying to copy those particular players. “Anticipation” presents the first such example, beginning with a Coleman-style folky waltz that shifts to a stretched-out rubato feeling for the middle eight, before shifting back to the first section. This structure recurs during parts of the solos too, which adds a good tension when the horns join together. Shelton also delivers a remarkable, frequently vocal solo.
“Joints and Tendons” leans closer to homage with a theme reminiscent of the Art Ensemble of Chicago. It features a very AACM approach of roughly five or six staccato notes followed by brief silence… then a sustained, often dissonant, harmony. Arty (no pun intended) and a little spare, it still offers intrigue for Daisy’s brief spastic solo and the fact that Jackson and Shelton on harmonize in crisp tones closer to West Coast cool cats than Chicago revolutionaries.
“Barely Talking” has a simple, catchy melody and a solo from Johnson that sounds free, especially in connection with Daisy, but maintains a focus and direction throughout. Hatwich also gets his moment in the spotlight too. “Deadfall” gives the leader his chance to go it alone for the first two-and-a-half minutes.
After last year’s impressive albums on Clean Feed with the groups Cylinder and Arrive, and the most recent Fast Citizens album on Delmark, Shelton is coming at it from all angles with a strong voice and engaging material. Everything for Somebody adds to that, and hopefully he’s starting to catch on so that the title won’t just refer to a limited set of listeners and appreciators.
By Mike Shanley