Ton Trio II is Aram Shelton on alto saxophone, Scott Brown on bass and Alex Vittum playing drums, and together they deliver a showcase of musical dexterity and ideas that grabs you the moment the needle finds the groove, or the laser hits the disc, or the data streams to the player. Continue reading “On and On at Free Jazz Collective”
Ton Trio II, On and On: Plenty to like in the new one by Aram Shelton’s Ton Trio II. The alto saxophonist’s compositions leave the door wide open for lengthy improvisations from himself as well as bassist Scott Brown and drummer Alex Vittum. Most pleasing it the seeming ease of Shelton’s lyricism at high speeds, the way a sailboat glides across the tops of choppy waves. Released a little earlier this year, it’s just now getting offered digitally.
Well here we are again after many months away, surely it’s time to get a few posts up and running again? To start the ball rolling are a couple of new releases from Aram Shelton’s Singlespeed music label.
Aram’s cooperative label has been gradually developing with nine releases to date so far. The latest three albums are all really top level releases deserving wide-scale attention from all those who are interested, especially those interested in creative improvised music but with composition, structure, melody and swinging free-bop as some of the central points.
First up is Aram’s own release, Ton Trio II: On and On (Singlespeed Music, SSM-013). Continue reading “On and On at Cardboard Music (Belgium)”
Oakland, CA, based jazz and improvisation protagonist, alto saxophonist Aram Shelton could hold his own with most anyone in a cutting-contest. But there’s more than a whole lot of technical acumen taking place with Ton Trio II. One of the principle selling points so to speak, is how the musicians impeccably integrate the modern jazz vernacular with invocative avant-garde campaigns, heaving with impact and intensifying discourses.
The trio’s spry and spunky demeanor is led by Shelton’s burly tone and fluent phrasings amid a search and conquer manifesto. On “Orange Poppies,” the band whirls through—with the greatest of ease—a complex bop-drenched time signature as Shelton ignites a firestorm. Here, bassist Scott Brown primarily operates within the upper-registers to incite a sense of urgency, where the band lashes out with sizzling choruses, sparked by Shelton’s amazingly fast flurries and gruff accents. He circumnavigates many of the rhythmic components executed by drummer Alex Vittum’s crackling pulses and polyrhythmic attack, along with solos that convey poetic qualities.
The band’s concentrated focus is keenly disassembled in certain movements as they loosen the vibe with free-form escapades of various hues and cadences. But the quasi, jazz-waltz oeuvre “Let’s All Go,” is a solid forum for Shelton to deliver John Coltrane-like chromatics via searching notes during an extended bridge as he restates and darts around the main theme, anchored by the rhythm section’s blustery grooves. However, Vittum explodes with a rough and tumble solo, gushing with regimented maneuvers; fancy footwork on the bass drum, and dizzying geometrical patterns as the band closes by punching out a snaky unison chorus. Otherwise, Shelton communicates isolation and reflection on the ballad “Findings,” ramped up by a mid- tempo jaunt, dyed with a harrowing storyline. Hence, the musicians’ self-perpetuating cycles of enthusiastic interplay engulfs the dynamically moving parts. Indeed, a blockbuster production.
by Glen Astarita, originally published at All About Jazz.
Because reedist Aram Shelton first made his name during his years in Chicago and continues to work in numerous ensembles featuring strong local players, that’s the context in which he tends to get covered by the Reader. But he moved to Oakland, California, in 2005 and he’s been superactive in the Bay Area since then, so even we don’t hear about those activities so much. Shelton has just released On and On (Singlespeed Music) with the second iteration of his long-running group Ton Trio. The album was made by a new lineup featuring bassist Scott Brown and drummer Alex Vittum. I just got my copy of the album and I haven’t had enough time to really immerse myself in the sounds, but on first blush it’s another winner. Today’s 12 O’Clock Track is a superbuoyant, hard-swinging gem called “Orange Poppies,” where the rhythm section provides agile, swift support for Shelton’s tart alto saxophone, which hurtles over the grooves without a misstep. At times there’s no missing the melodic brightness of Ornette Coleman, but Shelton has his own sound, flush with wild intervallic leaps, and flecked by sudden upper-register squeals and percussive honks. It’s a remarkable performance. Check it out after the jump.
Reedist Aram Shelton was an important presence in the Chicago jazz and improvised-music scene from the late 90s until he moved to Oakland in 2005, and it’s been two years since he’s come back to visit—far and away the longest stretch he’s been away. By now he’s deeply immersed in the music community on the west coast, so it’s nice to see him renewing his Chicago ties. He’s in town to play with the long-running Fast Citizens at this weekend’s Chicago Jazz Festival, and while here he’ll belatedly celebrate last year’s Everything for Somebody (Singlespeed Music), the second album by his excellent Chicago quartet; it features two members of the larger band, reedist Keefe Jackson and bassist Anton Hatwich, as well as drummer Tim Daisy. The title track retains the elegant Ornette Coleman vibe that’s long distinguished Shelton’s writing, and several tunes, including jaunty album opener “Anticipation,” with its catchy folk-dance melody and cantering groove, have themes that inspire spirited improvisation from the front line. Over the years Shelton and Jackson have developed a close rapport, and I can’t wait to hear it in person again. For tonight’s second set, Shelton’s quartet will be joined by three more of his bandmates in Fast Citizens—cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, cornetist Josh Berman, and drummer Frank Rosaly. —Peter Margasak
Everything For Somebody is the latest quartet disc from ex-Chicago alto saxophonist/clarinetist Aram Shelton, now residing in the Bay Area. He’s joined by Daisy, tenor saxophonist Keefe Jackson and bassist Anton Hatwich on a program of six original compositions. Shelton is one of those musicians for whom being an ‘acolyte’ is a respectful position; this writer hasn’t heard too many musicians, especially of a younger generation, take on the compositional tack and improvisational daring of Roscoe Mitchell. Shelton does that but he runs with it and has created a highly personal approach rooted in well-paced repetition and their abstracted (but highly melodic) outgrowths. Jackson’s more burred and quixotic phrasing is a fascinating foil, taking the same germs and contorting them into equally personal problem/solution dynamics. At heart – and not least due to the voluminous, dry activity of Daisy’s kit and the full tone and precise timing of Hatwich – this is swinging and accessible music, far from any rote exercise. Shelton and company balance formal rigor with bright and unruly nowness and that is something their esteemed forbears would appreciate. – Clifford Allen
Originally published in the New York City Jazz Record.
It’s all funk and soul on the outdoor stages this afternoon, but here in the close darkness of the Coffee House Gallery the atmosphere is quite different. While other bands shimmy and slam, saxophonist Aram Shelton is leading his postmodern Oakland/Chicago ensemble through a cerebral obstacle course.
“Rise and Set” is typically knotty. Shelton and co-conspirator Keefe Jackson slip in and out of unison on alto and tenor sax, playing against clockwork complications from drummer Tim Daisy. A vigorous, oblique solo from Jackson falls away as the band slides abruptly into a more relaxed pace, then Anton Hatwich gets the room to himself for a studious bass solo.
Shelton switches to clarinet for “An Interrupted Stroll,” spinning and bouncing as Daisy reinvents his rhythm. The drummer shifts constantly between sticks and brushes, his arms jerking every which way. Jackson’s sound is croaking here, gritty and almost sneering on the next number (“Fleeting”), as Shelton rolls and hitches his own lines with abandon.
The band opens it way up for “Joints and Tendons,” a possible double-entendre title that prompts Jackson to quip, “Aram was a completely different guy before he moved to California.” The tune itself is spacious and abstract, with skittery drums and melancholy horns, showing both the avant-garde influences of this group and the unique dynamic these musicians create by bridging two very different jazz scenes.
Alto saxophonist Aram Shelton doesn’t hail from Chicago, but he spent his formative years in the city of broad shoulders and hard-blowing horn players, honing an aesthetic steeped in the visceral hurly burly of free jazz.
Since moving to the Bay Area in 2005 to study at Mills College, he’s become an essential part of the region’s left-of-center improvisational scene while also maintaining his Chi-town ties. Shelton has launched several Bay Area-based bands, such as the raucous sextet Marches – which extrapolates on the music of Sun Ra, Archie Shepp and Albert Ayler – and These Are Our Hours, a quintet showcasing a bevy of highly promising young players. But he’s getting his first major West Coast exposure with a powerhouse quartet featuring Chicago compatriots Keefe Jackson on tenor sax, bassist Anton Hatwich and drummer Tim Daisy.
“It’s strange that I’m breaking out with this Chicago group,” Shelton says, “but this quartet is the one that’s closest to more traditional jazz music, with a lot of in-time swinging and playing melodies and structures.”
Following two Saturday afternoon sets at the Monterey Jazz Festival, the Aram Shelton Quartet concludes a high-profile California tour Saturday night at the Red Poppy Art House. Shelton also performs with guitarist Nathan Clevenger’s sextet Sunday at Oakland’s Freelove Music School and Sept. 30 at Legion of Honor with the Oakland Active Orchestra, a creatively charged 14-member collective that appears regularly at the Uptown Nightclub in Oakland.
With his thick, sinewy tone, Shelton, 36, often makes the alto sax sound like its larger sibling. On the quartet’s debut album “Everything for Somebody,” he and Jackson bob, weave and dance around Daisy’s mercurial rhythmic churn. No one is likely to mistake the grooves for dance music, but the quartet retains the ecstatic, call-to-assembly urgency found in its primary sources – Charles Mingus, Ornette Coleman and Eric Dolphy. “I listen to them all the time,” Shelton says. “Their music has this beauty and energy that comes out of the soloists playing really simple. Well, not simple as much as honest. That’s what really inspires me.”
Raised on a small ranch in southeast Florida, Shelton spent his teenage years immersed in the Western classical tradition. Just as he was finishing a music degree at the University of Florida he experienced an epiphany at a performance by Sam Rivers’ extraordinary multi-instrumental trio. Settling in Chicago in 1999, he quickly threw himself into the thick of the city’s roiling creative music scene, collaborating with leading players in a series of singular ensembles. He’s done much the same thing in the Bay Area.
“Aram is so prolific and such an original voice, he’s really a beacon for what’s possible out here,” says bassist Lisa Mezzacappa, who opens the Red Poppy show with ROVA saxophonist Steve Adams. “Besides the sheer energy and work he puts into making things happen, it’s been great that he’s kept his relationships with Chicago. We get to interact with those players and that cross pollination helps our scene.”
by Andy Gilbert
Aram Shelton has been one of my favourite discoveries over the last few years. There’s a forcefulness and deep intuitiveness to his performances that has always amazed me.
Kejell Nordeson is a terrific and inventive drummer whom I have followed since his days with Swedish outfit Aaly Trio (due to their recordings with Ken Vandermark).
It’s no really surprise that these two creative forces finally found each other with their group Cylinder. The two minds are on a very distinct and similar wavelength.
While Cylinder is an improv masterclass, the duo’s project, Incline (Singlespeed Music) is more a free-thinking sprawling yet very honed study of personal interplay. “Village” is an incredible opening track. A torrent of sound on par with David S. Ware/Andrew Cyrille. The piece builds rapidly as the two scream back and forth with notes that peel the skin from your eardrum. Fun, eh?!?
“Orbit” is more a solo outing for Nordeson as he picks, clangs, taps and pounds notes from the ether. Beautiful and investigating, it all flows nicely into “Test”, a melodic piece that is percussive and emotional. Led by heavy, deep undertones from Shelton and Nordeson create a blossoming atmosphere that fills the space yet is completely free of structure.
“Rig” sees Shelton in the solo role. Here stretching and constructing notes paint a slow moving Jackson Pollack-esque picture. The piece is short but moves nicely into “Soles,” a mountain of a piece that rips the top off of everything. Shelton and Nordeson seems to be in a completely higher plane. The piece gets louder and louder with the two seemingly melding into one until a gentle all-halt.
Incline is an album of multi-layered complexity. The unity between the Nordeson and Shelton is very apparent through each note. This is the duo that was long in the making but we are better off for it. Incline is another keen masterpiece in the history of both Aram Shelton and Kjell Nordeson.