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Saxophonist, clarinetist, improviser, composer.
Aram Shelton is an avant jazz saxophonist, clarinetist, improviser and composer.
Originally from southeast Florida, Shelton currently lives in Oakland, California. In
Oakland the groups Ton Trio II, Stratic, and Marches represent his music. He is
connected to Chicago (where he lived from 1999 to 2005) through his Quartet, the
cooperative sextet 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.
Starting 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
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 groups including his
Ton Trio II (with Scott Brown and Alex Vittum); 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; and the Oakland
Active Orchestra. He also curates the Active Music Series.
In addition to the above groups, Shelton has recently performed with Larry Ochs,
Jordan Glenn, Mark Dresser, Kyle Bruckmann, Cory Wright, Mark Clifford, Bill
Horvitz, and Josh Berman. In the past Shelton has been fortunate to perform with a
variety of talented musicians including Josh Sinton, Mary Halvorson, Weasel Walter,
Gino Robair, Jacob Wick, Ken Vandermark, Audrey Chen, Henry Grimes, Tony Buck,
Magda Mayas, James Fei, Fred Frith, Matt Bauder, Jason Ajemian, Tomas Fujiwara,
Marco Eneidi, 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 Monterey Jazz Festival, 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.