Have Flute Will Travel: Chip Shelton On The Road

C. Michael Bailey By

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Chip Shelton is part of that rare breed, an almost exclusive jazz flautist (save for the occasions where he plays soprano saxophone.) He has provided the jazz audience with several notable recordings including, Peacetime and Flute Bass-ics.

Shelton has a quasi-series of live recordings in the brew entitled Have Flute Will Travel. The first, Stop 1, was recorded in Berlin in 2003 and the second, Stop 2, in Cape May in 2006. The two releases offer a glimpse of Shelton in two different band formats, one piano based and one organ based. Both are entertaining and make a strong argument for the flute as a frontline jazz instrument (Herbie Mann excepted in my book).

Chip Shelton
Have Flute Will Travel Stop 1: Berlin
Summit Records

Shelton's Berlin stop employs a piano-guitar quintet that is effectively arranged for a flute-led line-up. Because of the gentle dynamics of the flute, Shelton is careful when pulling out the rhythm section stops. Nevertheless, the mix often finds him overpowered by the rhythm section but not so badly as to ruin the artistic value of the recording.

Shelton has a great respect for trumpeter Miles Davis and saxophonist John Coltrane, as indicated by his repertoire choices. These include the Davis vehicle "Green Dolphin Street, and the clever Davis/Coltrane medley of "Impressions"/"So What," as Coltrane fashioned his famous "Impressions after the great Kind Of Blue (CBS, 1959). This particular medley is exciting in its abandon—drummer Kenny Martin plays like the late Tony Williams possessed.

Shelton shows no fear of pianist Thelonious Monk's quirky work either, opening the concert with a swinging "Well, You Needn't. But it is the funk portion of his show, in this case "Listen Here and "I'm Coming Home Baby, where guitarist Veronika Vogel turns up the tube-fat distortion and wails, that really kicks. Have Flute Will Travel Stop 1: Berlin is an exciting introduction to Shelton's live performance.

Chip Shelton
Have Flute Will Travel Stop 2: Cape May
Summit Records

Following Have Flute Will Travel Stop 1: Berlin by three years, Shelton's follow-up, the 2CD set Have Flute Will Travel Stop 2: Cape May, increases the amount of music while reprising several of the pieces from Stop 1—but this time with a guitar-organ combo. This format allows for a looser, funkier environment in which Shelton can solo. Here, he takes on saxophonist Sonny Rollins' "St. Thomas and for the most part pulls it off. The flute is just a bit thin, but that is more a function of the instrument. Restricted to Shelton's chops, the discussion can only focus on the flautists true mind's ear for being able to drop the barometric pressure and raise the humidity of the music.

Guitarist Lou Volpe provides a very similar function for Shelton as did Veronika Vogel on Stop 1. He can comp like Joe Pass and solo like the love child of Wes Montgomery and Philip Catherine. Shelton couples Miles Davis' "All Blues with Monk's "Well, You Needn't, raising the funk factor even more. But it is on Herbie Mann's "Memphis Underground that Shelton and Vogel tear things up, propelled by Doug Carn's organ. "Green Dolphin Street takes on a whole new shine with the organ combo, trading the pate and champagne of Stop 1 for the pig's feet and beer of Stop 2. The two discs make a good set for demonstrating Chip Shelton's wide talent.

Tracks and Personnel:

Have Flute Will Travel Stop 1: Berlin

Tracks: Well You Needn't; Green Dolphin Street; Impressions/So What; Lady Bird/Half Nelson; Like Trane; Listen Here; Comin Home Baby.

Personnel: Chip Shelton: flute, piccolo, percussion; Veronika Vogel: guitar; Reggie Moore: piano; Ramani Krishna: bass; Kenny Martin: drums.

Have Flute Will Travel Stop 2: Cape May

Tracks: CD1: Imprints; St. Thomas; Flute Thing; All Blues/Well You Needn't; Take The A Train; Chip's Blues; Memphis Underground. CD2: Astral Island; Thembi; Green Dolphin Street; Little Sunflower; Body & Soul; Comin' Home Baby.

Personnel: Chip Shelton: flute, soprano saxophone; Lou Volpe: guitar; Doug Carn: organ; Sipho Kunene: drums.

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