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Aram Shelton - Arrive

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Artist: Aram Shelton

Album: Arrive

Label: 482 Music

Review date: Sep. 16, 2005

Poll the average jazz aficionado about the current movers and shakers on the Chicago scene and odds are strong that Ken Vandermark’s name will percolate to the top. Vandermark’s positioning and reach speaks to both his perseverance and to the tendency of the jazz press to harp upon high profile names. The situation on the ground is a bit different, with younger players like saxophonist Aram Shelton and his colleagues contributing to the scene right alongside their older, more well-established peers. In bands like Dragons 1976, Grey Ghost and this latest aggregation on Arrive, Shelton advances a postbop to free vocabulary anchored in the past that also draws on the present and expectantly eyeballs the future. The basic elements will be familiar to any student of the 60s New Thing, but Shelton and his band aren’t about rote regurgitation.

The heads on the first two pieces are vamp-ish, and the choppy cadences of their unison themes recall the dark angularity of 60s Andrew Hill. Jason Adasiewicz’s amplified vibraphone proves an adroit pivot for the quartet, with luminous clusters splashing from their struck surfaces to create cunning and subtle rhythmic suspensions. His style harkens to Bobby Hutcherson’s Blue Note reign as the vibraphone's understated master. There’s also a bit of Khan Jamal’s unsinkable lyricism in his otherworldly patterns. “On Time” serves as a workout for bassist Jason Roebke’s scurrying bow as hair-trigger arco streaks engage in a zero-gravity dance with the Adasiewicz’s ringing clouds of notes. The circular “All Dressed Up” sounds like an outtake from the aforementioned Hill’s Judgment, rhythmically and harmonically restless and primed for off-kilter solos by each of the players. Drummer Tim Daisy keeps a supple responsive beat while Roebke’s hulking bass throb, ripe with stops and knuckle-punishing snaps, belies an unexpected agility in relation to its girth.

The album’s ballads are even more majestic and masterfully realized. “Because of You” builds from a tender incremental progression parsed by bass, vibes and alto in a gently shimmering lattice that eschews conventional rhythmic tethers. The mood is sweetly mindful of Jemeel Moondoc in its naked pathos that never slips into lachrymose melancholy. Last in the roll call, “Johann & Leo” serves as a showcase for Adasiewicz, who embraces the space and latitude to a preface of uncommon dream-like beauty, pedals and mallets working in tandem to paint a lambent watercolor vista. The inevitable entrance of the rest of the band almost seems like an intrusion, but Shelton’s acapella solo (again awash with ardent echoes of Moondoc) allays concern over any abeyance. Daisy and Adasiewicz set up a telegraphing line on “The Return.” Shelton and Roebke shape a sliding counterpoint that segues into a series of searching subdivisions of the ensemble while Daisy maintains meter that refuses to be tagged for too long. A swirling full band fanfare brings the encounter to an effulgent close. Albums like this one announce that there’s plenty of room in the Windy City klieg lights for an entire assembly of players, not just those anointed by the tastemakers.

By Derek Taylor

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