CYLINDER – CYLINDER (CF 219)
Cylinder is a quartet of San Francisco Bay Area expatriates, which includes, besides Shelton, a Canadian trumpeter, Darren Johnson, a bass player from Staten Island, Lisa Mezzacappa, and a drummer from Norway, Kjell Nordeson, who was a member of School Days, a defunct group that included Chicagoans Ken Vandermark and Jeb Bishop. Cylinder is a truly collective effort with every band member contributing compositions. As a result, their debut recording provides a wide variety of circumstances and forms. Johnston’s “The Ear That Was Sold to a Fish” or Mezzacappa’s “The Deep Disciplines” have also an Ornette Coleman feel. The alto sax/trumpet front line is definitely one factor, but the main idea is to have every musician play melodically. On the other hand, Nordeson’s personal sound cannot be mistaken for neither Billy Higgins’ nor Ed Blackwell’s. Whether the quartet delves into a dirge, ruminations, or collages, it strikes a nice balance between unisons and counterpoints, between abstraction and grooves, the whole experience being complemented by a broad sonic palette–in addition to the alto sax, Shelton plays the Bb and bass clarinets. And when jazz is foremost known for using melodies as a springboard for improvisation, these four musicians can also start from an impromptu situation to slowly and cleverly build a structure, which testifies to the level of communication they operate at.
ARAM SHELTON’S ARRIVE – THERE WAS…(CF 217)
Originally from Florida, saxophonist/clarinetist Aram Shelton spent a few years in Chicago before leaving for Oakland in 2005. However, he never severed his ties and Arrive is one of several projects he has put together with former colleagues since his departure. Joining him in this venture are Jason Adasiewicz on vibraphone, Jason Roebke on bass, and Tim Daisy on drums. Adasiewicz’s instrument provides a unique atmosphere. Although he gets enough room to stretch, it is his role as a colorist that is most striking. He also creates a deceptively relaxed mood that tends to hide a real sense of purpose and freedom. As the main soloist, Shelton, who sticks to the alto sax throughout, alternates between graceful and jagged lines and carefully articulates his ideas, avoiding any ostentatious display. Shelton’s six compositions are constantly moving forward thanks to Roebke’s acute sense of pace and Daisy’s effective drive and swing. They are also steeped in the finest tradition of creative jazz. Finally, There Was… benefits greatly from the rapport the musicians developed during the tour that preceded the recording session.
Arrive – There Was… (CF 217)
Valutazione: 4.5 stelle
Che la separazione tra nuovo e vecchio nel jazz rischi di far prendere abbagli ce lo insegna a suo modo anche questo bel disco, registrato da un quartetto i cui componenti dovrebbero fornire di per sé sufficienti garanzie all’ascoltatore più accorto e aggiornato.
Shelton è uno dei protagonisti assoluti del jazz chicagoano degli ultimi tempi, Adasiewicz è tra i musicisti più intelligenti dell’ultima generazione, come si capisce dalle sue collaborazioni con Mazurek o dall’accurata intervista che gli ha fatto recentemente Luca Canini per AllAboutJazz; Roebke lo abbiamo ascoltato in Italia con il gruppo di Mike Reed e Daisy suona regolarmente con Ken Vandermark.
There Was…, registrato nell’agosto del 2008 a Chicago (in uno studio in cui si era drammaticamente rotta l’aria condizionata), al termine di un tour statunitense, immortala un gruppo in cui l’attenzione per la forma e la struttura è associata ad un altrettanto valida considerazione per il suono.
In tutto questo si alternano momenti rigorosi e obbligati, swing poderosi in cui la batteria memore del Max Roach anni Sessanta e di Roy Haynes fa da contraltare al vibrafono rilucente e originale, capace di far riverberare lo spazio sonoro o al sassofono colemaniano di Shelton che in ogni assolo dimostra uno spiccato senso della frase.
Le parti scritte e gli sviluppi improvvisativi si muovo tra geometrie ad assetto variabile lungo strade in cui a far da apripista c’è sempre il poderoso contrabbasso di Roebke.
ARRIVE – There Was (CF 217)
CYLINDER – Cylinder (CF 219)
Composer-reedman Aram Shelton is a very unassuming character, which is partly why his trajectory is so interesting to watch. Based in Oakland, California for the past several years while studying at Mills College, he’s still found time to maintain his Chicago roots, playing with cooperative ensembles like Fast Citizens and Rolldown as well as various West Coast aggregations. As an improviser, he’s probably one of the most consistently exciting altoists on the contemporary scene, having studied intently the music of historic messengers like Jackie McLean, Gary Bartz, Roscoe Mitchell and Anthony Braxton and wrapping it all into his own conception. Two recent discs on the Clean Feed label put an excellent spotlight on some of Shelton’s activities – namely, the quartets Arrive (which began in Chicago) and the decidedly Bay Area band Cylinder.
Arrive features fellow Rolldown members Jason Adasiewicz (vibes) and Jason Roebke (bass) along with drummer Tim Daisy, and There Was is their second disc to date. The opening title piece gradually shifts from spare tonal exploration to sharp alto pirouettes atop a taut, active thrum, Roebke’s fistfuls making this groove edgily pliant and brightly accented. The vibist’s solo shows just how much he’s progressed over the last few years, bright pools and fragmentary sub-tunes making themselves clear in one of the most strikingly (no pun intended) individual statements on the instrument in recent memory. “Frosted” exhibits a shredded view of a nocturnal half-ballad as Shelton takes a caressing tone and eviscerates it with gutsy near squall, at other times making coagulated blues. Adasciewicz matches delicacy with crisp, snaking movement in a mirror to the saxophonist’s devilish turns before Daisy inflects the tune with calypso-like rhythms. From the lilting melody of “Lost,” it’s a quick transition into Roebke’s woody muscle, using hands, bow and forearms to craft tensile opposition. Reprising the theme, its resonance is catchy and Shelton’s blistering statements rekindle the fiery gobs of AACM sound as much as they do an aggressively-tinged hardbop push. He’s clearly a player who knows two divergent traditions well, but his own work as an instrumentalist-composer is to find ways to bring them together.
Cylinder is the cooperative quartet of Shelton, trumpeter Darren Johnston, bassist Lisa Mezzacappa and drummer Kjell Nordeson (who splits his time between California and Stockholm). The trumpeter composed the opening “The Ear That Was Sold to a Fish,” which recalls the John Carter-Bobby Bradford Quartet in its uneasy funereal unison before splaying out into curling alto, as meaty pizzicato bass and Nordeson’s light rattle build a rhythm environment. “The Deep Disciplines” pits short, darting segments against sawing insistence, alto and trumpet in loose commentary atop a swaying hull and obsessive patter. A drummer who builds his language from small rimshots, highly-tuned taps and deadened thuds, Nordeson is one of the most engaging parts of this quartet, especially as he counters Mezzacappa’s robust and steadfast bass playing. The pair tugs at one another on the brief “Shells,” written by the drummer as a chunky rhythmic exploration that soon steps out of bounds while horns pile on with cutting interplay. Mezzacappa’s closing “Earthworm” is a spacious roil with bass clarinet and drums played off of rude harmonic scrawl in varying degrees of density. Cylinder presents a solid program of piano-less quartet music and, while not all of it is entirely distinctive, the contrasts between the group’s four personalities should make for excellent future results. Both discs are a fine place to introduce oneself to Aram Shelton’s music.
Darren Johnston/Aram Shelton/Lisa Mezzacappa/Kjell Nordeson – Cylinder (CF 219)
Cylinder is a collective quartet based in San Francisco, with an ensemble dynamic that echoes Ornette Coleman’s classic quartet without foregoing each individual’s unique voice as an instrumentalist and composer. The four musicians each come from disparate locations in the US and Sweden and each brings to the ensemble an eclectic background of musical vocabularies. The challenge with a record by four leaders who all compose for the band is to create a sound that both represents the distinct characters of the composer/performers, but also puts forth a general consensus of creative direction. Saxophonist/clarinetist Aram Shelton’s history with Chicago inevitably leads a listener to draw comparisons between the Associationfor the Advancement of Creative Musicians and Shelton’s colorful and spacious composition style, with “Four Thoughts” and “Skipped Rocks” both offering an enchanting blend of abstraction, freedom and lyricism. Drummer Kjell Nordeson sounds amazing on the latter and the Swede’s own compositions are beautiful, “Shells” brimming with energy and drive and “Sung By Dogs” mixing melodic intrigue with some great extended techniques from trumpeter Darren Johnston. Johnston’s compositions probably most directly call to mind Ornette Coleman’s unlikely melodic structures, with the themes of “The Ear That Was Sold To a Fish” and “Sink Town” floating over a propulsive rhythm. Bassist Lisa Mezzacappa’s prodigious technique lends the ensemble firm footing and a flexible poise that enables fluidity of motion. Both her arco and pizzicato playing are buoyant, assured and consistently engaging. Her “The Deep Disciplines” sets up a variety of ensemble shapes in the composed sections, with sharp unisons, wobbling trills and driving rhythms all careening up against each other. The variety of compositional structures on display across this disc are impressive and the energy with which the musicians bring these works to life is ear-grabbing. Having each found their way to the Bay Area from disparate locales, they have created a cohesive band with a sense of team work and a love of innovation and tradition, both shared and personal. The band functions so well as a unit because it is made up of individuals enjoying each other’s ideas and discoveries.
CYLINDER / Cylinder (CF 219)
Plus créatif, plus pompé, plus intéressant est cet autre quatuor avec Aram Shelton, quatuor qu’il ne dirige pas cette fois. Cylinder est un projet collectif entre Shelton, le trompettiste Darren Johnston, la bassiste Lisa Mezzacappa et le batteur Kjell Nordeson. Les quatre membres composent pour le groupe. Superbes échanges entre trompette et saxo, une section rythmique qui a du cran, une écriture sautillante et qui sait frapper là où ça fait mal (ou du bien, c’est selon). J’aime.
More creative, pumped up and interesting than Arrive is this other quartet featuring Aram Shelton, although he is not the leader this time. Cylinder is a collective project between Shelton, trumpeter Darren Johnston, bassist Lisa Mezzacappa, and drummer Kjell Nordeson. All four compose for the group. Gorgeous exchanges between trumpet and sax, a gutsy rhythm section, and spirited writing that hits where it hurts (and it feels good). I like.
ARRIVE / There Was… (CF 217)
Un deuxième (ou je m’abuse?) album pour ce quatuor du saxophoniste Aram Shelton, avec Jason Adasiewicz (vibraphone), Jason Roebke (contrebasse) et Tim Daisy (batterie). Plus constant que le premier. Très jazz, assez puissant, le jeu coulant d’Adasiewicz adoucissant les aspérités du saxo alto. Un disque studio honnête.
A second album (or am I mistaken?) for this quartet led by saxman Aram Shelton, with Kason Adasiewicz (vibes), Jason Roebke (doublebass) and Tim Daisy (drums). More consistent than the first CD. Very jazzy, quite powerful, Adasiewicz’s flowing playing smoothing out the alto sax’s asperities. A honest studio album.