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Saxophonist, clarinetist, improviser, composer.
Aram Shelton is an avant jazz saxophonist, clarinetist, improviser and composer.
Originally from southeast Florida, Shelton lived in Chicago from 1999 to 2005 and
currently lives in Oakland, California. In Oakland the groups Stratic, Ton Trio, These Are
Our Hours, and Marches represent his music. He stays connected to Chicago through his
Quartet, the Fast Citizens (Delmark), and Jason Adasiewicz' Rolldown (Cuneiform). His
writing and playing is grounded in and influenced by the rich history of avant-jazz and free
improvisation in America and Europe since the 1950s and has been documented through
more than a dozen albums since 2003.
As an improviser, he possesses the mind of a composer, such is the consideration he puts into his work - All About Jazz
Shelton’s alto tone is full of the quizzical curls and bitter wisps, not to mention sharp repetition, that recall Roscoe Mitchell at his hairiest.- Clifford Allen
Shelton plays alto with a singing sound and a wonderful way of developing juicy phrases into full-blown solos. - John Litweiler
brings to mind a young Anthony Braxton, with an acerbic asceticism, obliquely rooted in jazz, at work. - All About Jazz
Beginning on tenor saxophone while growing up on a small ranch in southeast Florida, Shelton switched to alto in college and focused on the classical techniques of the instrument. On graduating, Shelton moved to Washington DC for a summer where he met other young musicians that were mainly playing free jazz. After an intense several months that served as an awakening to the power of improvised music he moved to Chicago in the spring of 1999, inspired by the amount of musical activity. He quickly became involved in the city's creative music scene and began to develop his playing style on alto saxophone while simultaneously studying clarinet and trumpet. He played creative jazz and improvised music in many settings including Dragons 1976, with Jason Ajemian and Tim Daisy; Arrive, with Jason Adasiewicz, Jason Roebke, and Daisy; the Fast Citizens, with Keefe Jackson, Josh Berman, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Anton Hatwich and Frank Rosaly; and began to use Max/MSP for the live sampling and manipulation of acoustic instruments, primarily with Johnathan Crawford in the electro acoustic duo Grey Ghost.
In 2005, Shelton moved to Oakland to study electroacoustic music & recording techniques at Mills College in Oakland, California. At Mills, Shelton developed compositions that focused on the technique of phrase modification, wherein phrases played by acoustic instruments are recorded in real time and rearranged via custom built patches in MAX/MSP. He continues to improvise and compose electroacoustic music focused on the concepts illustrated in his graduate thesis Sound Extended: Replication of Acoustic Material and Phrase Modification.
Since moving to California, Shelton has developed music with a variety of groups including his Ton Trio; Cylinder, with Darren Johnston, Lisa Mezzacappa, and Kjell Nordeson; his sextet Marches, inspired by the music of Shepp, Ayler & Sun Ra; the avant / electroacoustic group Stratic; the 14 member Oakland Active Orchestra; and the new quintet These Are Our Hours. He also curates the Active Music Series.
In addition to the Oakland & Chicago based groups, Shelton has recently performed in California, New York and Berlin with the likes of Larry Ochs, Tony Buck, Magda Mayas, James Fei, Fred Frith, Josh Berman, Matt Bauder, Jason Ajemian, Tomas Fujiwara, Marco Eneidi, Josh Sinton, Mary Halvorson, Weasel Walter, Gino Robair, Jacob Wick, and Scott Looney. In the past he has been fortunate to perform with a wide variety of talented musicians including Ken Vandermark, Audrey Chen, Henry Grimes, Daniel Carter, Dave Rempis, Nate Wooley, Damon Smith, Jon Raskin, Liz Albee, Rob Mazurek, Havard Wiik, Jeff Parker, Frank Gratkowski, Josh Abrams, Harris Eisenstadt, Jeb Bishop, Tim Perkis, Guillermo Gregorio, and Chris Brown. He has performed in Europe, Canada and the United States including appearances at the Chicago Jazz Festival, the Suoni per il Popolo Festival in Montreal, and the Krakow Autumn Jazz Festival. He has led workshops at the Evergreen State College, the Luzern Jazz School, through NEXMAP and at UC Santa Cruz. His playing and music are available through Delmark, Clean Feed, Cuneiform, 482 Music, Locust Music, MultiKulti, Edgetone, and his own Singlespeed Music.