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Arrive
Cadence
Jay Collins
Alto saxophonist Aram Shelton has made a name for himself around Chicago’s vibrant music scene as one of the keepers of the flame of the first wave of youngsters after Ken Vandermark and his associates took hold in the 90’s. In contrast to many of the current hardnosed Chicagoans, Shelton stands out with a less acidic approach that might surprise some folks given his forward-thinking ideas. Past work in collectives Dragons 1976 and the electro-acoustic environments of Grey Ghost demonstrate his experimental nature and Arrive, his debut as a leader, is yet another document supporting his growing reputation. As for the specifics, this spacious, yet ambitious 2001 quartet session features frequent collaborators vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz, bassist Jason Roebke, and drummer Tim Daisy. Adasiewicz’s appearance is the master stroke and although he is known for his hard-hitting attack, he is surprisingly subtle, at times recalling Bobby Hutcherson’s classic Blue Note era work. In fact, the chamberesque, airy results easily lead to comparisons with the string of records from the Hutcherson-Hill-Moncur-McLean Blue Note axis that remains timeless even today.

The unison, written lines and open setting commence “On Time,” a hazy sojourn that whirs thanks to Adasiewicz’s gentle sonorities and Roebke’s fluid arco. The jaunty swing of “All Dressed Up” charges next, followed by the lush balladry of “Because of You.” Initially a bass/vibes rumination, Shelton and Daisy slide their way into formation, as the quartet ratchets up the emotionality of the piece. From a different direction comes the Classically shaped world of “The Return” that escalates into an urgent final succession. Concluding with “Johann & Leo,” the quartet introspectively wanders, with Adasiewicz creating a moody atmosphere that floats as his vibes wash away.

Word is it that Shelton has recently moved to the West Coast. While this is a loss for Chicago’s active scene, let’s hope that Shelton continued his creative journey that has begun with this excellent date.

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