Shelton Perkis Smith Glenn Uptown 8-18-09

A really great show last night at the Uptown in Oakland. It’s part of their “Avant-Garde” Tuesday series, one show a month with no cover charge, but with donations asked for inside the main room. It’s really a good space – super high ceilings, dark and almost cavernous. This month the lineup was three sets, the first being the duo of Tom Rainey and Ingrid Laubrock – yes, Tom is very well known for his work with Tim Berne, and it was great to see him play here with Ingrid, who is a great saxophone player – I really liked her tenor playing which had a very interesting edge and total control of the instrument. They set up on the floor (which is the best place for an acoustic group to set up in that room), and played very well as a duo. The addition of the half filled wine glass as percussion worked too…..
The second set was a trio of music with Philip Greenleaf, Tim Perkis, and GE Stinson up from Los Angeles with video by Brenda Bynum. Very good – the music and film worked quite well together – the sounds had a strong sonic-texture orientation, the images are moving stream of related and changing images that had been reduced to simpler color schemes – it fit perfectly in the space of the Uptown.
The third set I played in with Perkis, Damon Smith and Jordan Glenn. The first time I think that Jordan played with Damon & Tim. A little over a month ago I played at 21 Grand with Tim, Damon and Josh Berman, who was visiting from Chicago. It was a good improvising group with lots of activity and possibilities. Adding Jordan’s percussion style into the group worked well and balanced group with almost a traditional “jazz” lineup – saxophone, bass, drums with laptop. Tim is very good with his electronics – very flexible, able to play and change at a moment’s notice. I asked him afterward if he has perfect pitch, because the two of us matched many times throughout the set – he told me that he doesn’t, but he’s definitely on top of it.
So, all in all a good night at the Uptown – until the next time….


Bennett Shelton Flux Theatre 8-14-2009

Tonight played in east Oakland with Aaron Bennett at the Flux Theater. It’s a relatively new space in a tough stretch of Foothill Blvd out in the general Mills area. We got added to the show this week – Aaron asked me to play some duo music, I thought, yes. A few years back I was never into playing with multiple saxophonists, but these days I’ve been getting more into it. I really like Aaron’s playing, so of course I’ll play with him. So we played a bunch of his tunes – some of which we played with Gogo Fightmaster earlier this week but with different arrangements. Some other tunes that shared characteristics with the GGFM music. All of it high energy!
I played alto & tenor, Aaron did tenor and baritone. Not alot of space for breaths! We tore through a set, my favorite one was Cops and Robbers, not to be confused with this gem.

After we played a group from Louisville called Vampire Squid took the stage – a young band on a whirlwind US tour, they’ve got a lot going on and the music is ambitious. Strong players, a really good violinist – I liked what they did. Some kids from the neighborhood wandered in and out, some of them wanted to rhyme over beats, and the vampire squid decided to let them – it made for a good moment when am mc seemed a bit nervous was doing his thing and his friend danced well with a huge grin on his face. Hope the VS have a good trip back to the land of bourbon – – – —-

Marches Blue Six 8-12-2009

My new group is called Marches. I’m thinking of it as a compartmentalized group where the music can be played as a trio, quartet, quintet or larger. The music has been on my mind for a bit now – I played some of it back in April with Bauder, Ajemian and Eisestadt when I was in New York; played some of it in June with Keefe Jackson, Anton Hatwich and Marc Riordan in Chicago. But now I’ve brought it back to the West Coast where I wrote it and am starting to get some dates with Jordan Glenn on drums, Cory Wright on tenor & baritone saxes, Gene Baker on organ and Nate Brenner on bass. Like I said, the lineup can change. A few weeks ago I played some of the music with Gene and Jordan – and it was alot of fun.

Tonight was the debut of quartet style: played with Cory, Gene and Jordan at Blue Six in the Mission. Last month, when I was up in Oregon with Jordan and Cory, we played a show with Reed Wallsmith and Sly Pig, the saxophonists in the band Blue Cranes. They’re good fellows who play good music, and they were coming down for a California weekend. So, we shared the bill this night. They played the first set, and their music is very well written, with pop sensibilities and a full sound for a band. I had learned the secret code for “you’re getting too loud” and got concerned when I heard it used during their set, because in practice Marches has been pretty full. The music is active and energetic with strong melodies that need to be played with some volume. Also, I’m playing tenor in the group and my tenor setup – a Buescher Aristocrat – is not shy.

well, we played and as the set went on, we never got the cue to tone it down – either we weren’t that loud or Joe really liked it (I think the latter, after talking to him after the show). Again, playing the music was FUN – lots of energy – this band is a strong combination of players – Cory sounds especially great on tenor. We’ve got some work to tighten up the music, but from where we’re starting, I feel this will go somewhere good. Here’s a track called Pacheco. I wrote it with Ton Trio in mind, but it works very well with this group. I’m playing tenor, Cory’s on baritone.

In other news: looks like the Fast Citizens album we made in January will be coming out this fall on Delmark Records! It will be released in October – it’s very good news…..

Gogo Fightmaster Ivy Room 8-10-2009

Played at the Ivy Room this past Monday with Aaron Bennett’s Gogo Fightmaster. Aaron’s a great tenor player and the first time I saw this group a few years ago I really liked what I heard. Aaron and I have done some playing together mainly with Weasel Walter, and our playing styles, though different go well together – lots of energy. Fighmaster has John Finkbeiner on guitar, Lisa Mezzacappa on bass and Vijay Anderson on drums. The music has lots of sixteenth notes and extreme registers. It was a good set.

We’ll be playing a saxophone duo set this Friday at the Flux Theater in Oakland.

Shelton Baker Glenn 7-29-2009

Last night played at the Climate Theater in SF with Jordan Glenn and Gene Baker. Michael Coleman had asked me to bring a group for the night, he was playing in his trio Beep with Nate Brenner on bass and Jordan on drums. Our original plan was to improvise, but last minute I thought of bringing some music along – a few pieces that Ton Trio played when we were over in Europe this spring, and some other things. Real glad I did. Plying with Gene and Jordan was great – we improvised and played the tunes, Gene held it down on the Hohner Organ – his bass concept fitting in perfectly on the pieces I brought. I played alto and tenor – the tenor has been fun to get back to (picked one up of the craigslist about a month ago). There was good energy the whole set, and really strong improvising. Basically I had alot of fun playing with those fellows and can’t wait for the next time.

Beep! Trio played next – Michael & Nate are great players – and Jordan, subbing for Sam Ospovat, fit in real well with their style. Lots of influences on the music, definitely not a standard piano trio.
So, a good night of music, my first time at the Climate – it’s a good space to play in, with good sound and a proper atmosphere. thanks to David for the show.

It’s been a while! Europe in May

Okay, it’s been waaaay too long since I last posted. Seeing as it’s July and the last post was in mid-April, that means somehow 3 months have passed without a post. This includes trips to France, Poland, Serbia, Chicago and Los Angeles and about 20 shows. So, I’ve alot to catch up for….

I’ll start with the Ton Trio dates in Europe. This happened at the very end of April and the first week of May. Kurt Kotheimer and I flew over to Paris to meet up with Sam Ospovat, who’s been living there since last October. He’s been enrolled in school, teaching English, and getting acquainted with some players on the Parisian scene and having a good time of it. It was hard for us to book dates in Paris, and though we were there for 5 days, we were only able to arrange 1 concert. This with many months of lead time. However, this gave us some days to get back into the music from The Way, and to work on some new pieces that I brought for this trip. We had some rehearsals in a space that was somewhat of a catacomb – borrowed a bass from one of Sam’s friends that lives up on the 6th floor (with no elevator) – and prepared for our concert at a space called Nouveau Cosmos. A bar and cafe, we had a decent crowd and made a good night of it. We also had Quentin Sirjac join us for a few songs on piano. It was my first time in Paris, and after being there and talking to musicians about the difficulties of doing concerts there, I felt better about only having one date there. Apparently it’s pretty tough to get shows there, especially creative music.

So, Ton Trio headed over to Poland for concerts with stops in Krakow, Warsaw and Poznan. The concerts were good, and I felt like we played together better than we ever had. And as in my previous visits, the folks having the concerts for us were very helpful. But, the attendance at the shows was less than I had expected, which was kind of a downer. Our last show was in Poznan, and in talking to the promoter, it seems there is somewhat of an audience crisis happening there – somewhat due to the worldwide economic thing – a tough time to be trying to get your foot in the door of European festival promoters and audiences in general. Not that playing this music is ever easy, in terms of getting the music out there be it through recordings or live shows. But, we were made very welcome by our hosts; after staying in Poznan an extra day and recording the new material, we had a few extra days before Kurt & Sam needed to return to Paris, so we went down to Krakow, and had a good time at Alchemia one night – and got to go to a great spot up on a hill overlooking the southern parts of the city. A good visit.

Sam & Kurt went back to Paris and I went back to Warsaw, where I stayed for a few days before the next part of my trip. I stayed with my friend Wojciech Traczyk, the bassist from the Light, one day we recorded some music, the last night I was in Poland I went with him to a concert he was playing at the Hard Rock Cafe Warsaw – funny place. Ran into Waclaw Zimpel a few times – he was busy at the time playing in several groups. It felt good to see some more of the ongoings of the scene in Warsaw – the musicians I know there are staying real busy, with a big variety of projects. Inspiring.

So my next stop on the trip was a rendezvous with the Fast Citizens in Belgrade. Several Chicago groups were asked to be part of the annual Ring Ring Festival. There programming tends to be slanted towards more improvised and electroacoustic music. So, I’m not sure if they thought that our music would fit in. We got in a day early and had a full rehearsal the day of the concert in the space, which was quite boomy – it took us a long time to decide where to actually play, on the floor or on the stage. For playing it sounded better on the stage, as a listener it was better on the floor. We finally decided on the floor. Pretty much right on time (20:00) the audience showed up, and the concert went very well. The Necks played the first set that night, they really pulled in the audience with their minimalist aesthetic – Tony Buck sounded great on drums. As we took over for the second set, the crowd of a few hundred rearranged, with a chunk of people sitting on the stage behind us – this created a great feeling with people all around, and I think it worked well to tame the acoustics in the room. The response to the music was very positive, which was extra rewarding after the smaller events in Poland and France.

The organizers were completely helpful, arranging for our accommodations for several days and being ready and willing to talk about the festival, and Belgrade itself, a very interesting city that has seen it’s share of troubles. The city is a real mix between old and new, with a sprawling ancient citadel close by the club where the festival took place – Rex. Lots of capitalist style commercialism in the fashion stores and sidewalk cafes with stray dogs taking naps at bus stops and homeless children (young) close by. (Why is it that the homeless know better English than store owners? Pure finances) Boyan was a great help to all of us, it was great to talk to him about the history of Serbia including Yugoslavia.

So, my next stop was Berlin. I’ve never been and have heard so many great things about Berlin that I decided when booking this trip that I had to make a side trip. I arranged a solo concert at the Electronic Church, which I happened to share with Liz Allbee and George Cremaschi, both of whom are now ex-Oaklanders. George moved to the Czech Republic full time a bit over a year ago, and Liz has decided to move to Berlin. Why is it that I know more musicians who move to Europe from the Bay Area than from Chicago? Is it because it is farther away and you may as well just move there if you want to have a presence on the continent? Is it because in Chicago there are more established series and contacts? Perhaps a combination? I was glad to share the bill with Liz & George and talk to them about their plans. It’s inspiring to see people taking a chance by moving to new countries – I hope the best for them.

The Electronic Church is a smaller space, the show was on a Sunday and there were something like 5 other creative music shows that night including one with Tony Buck, one with Axl Dorner & Fred Lonberg-Holm, etc… but, we still had a nice little crowd and I was glad to meet a few people – thanks Shintaro for arranging it! I didn’t have alot of time in Berlin – 2 nights – so spent one day wandering – mainly in the former East Berlin. Went by the Reichstag, and the Brandenburg Gate – touristy. Good to see though. I was really into the feel of Berlin as a city – the transit is great – goes everywhere, is affordable – I had the best falafel I think I’ve had in a looong time at Babel, enjoyed the streets and neighborhoods – kind of like Chicago with more trees – kind of like Portland with more city. Lots of cyclists – relaxed though, not speeding around like here in the states. Also, don’t think I saw a single bike helmet. Really glad I went, and want to get back there sometime soon!

My trip was almost over and I had to fly out of Paris, and had to get back there. I had been in touch with Audrey Chen and she had a concert happening at Atelier Tampon that she invited me to take part in the night before my flight back to the states. Perfect. So, I flew from Berlin on Monday morning, had a 2 hour layover, got into Paris around 5, met Sam at his apartment on Q’uai d’Orsay around 6, dropped off my things and then took the Metro to the space. Thankfully I’d been in Paris the week before and knew how to get around, otherwise it wouldn’t have worked out so well! The space is one of the few places in Paris that has creative music concerts and has hosted all sorts of people including Henry Grimes in it’s small confines. There was an opening at the same time with lots of delicious organic wine – the red was almost effervescent! Very good. First Audrey played a duo with Id M Theftable, a fellow from Maine who does electronics and voice improv, then I joined them for some playing. A good concert, with food afterwards in the upstairs apartment. A great last night of music on the continent. We stayed late and eventually took a taxi all together, even though I was staying in a totally different part of town. I didn’t get much sleep, but this was for the best, as I caught up for it on the plane headed back to California, getting a leg up on the jet lag.

March & April 2009

Quite a bite has been going on the last month or so and I just haven’t been writing about it. It’s spring in California, and though I’m sure to those of you in other parts of the country that can be a struggle, out here it’s generally good. For me it’s been good as I’ve been looking for “work”, and have had extra time for practicing, writing music, and concerning myself with an upcoming trip to Europe.
March went by pretty well, had a trip down to Los Angeles with the Pink Canoes where we played a good show at the Pharoah’s Den down in Riverside (and now I know why Orange County is considered a totally different thing than LA) and a fun if ill-attended show at the Echo Curio in Echo Park. Stayed in Bel Air – went to the Getty Museum, nice trip. We finished that trip in Santa Cruz, a long day of driving up from LA, to the show, then back to the Bay that night. All in all I think Pink Canoes played 5 shows in March, had a good one at the Hemlock where Gerrit Wittmer played a set, and then another one at Travis’ house the Golden Trapperkeeper Lodge where it was Earth Hour, so we played a rare acoustic set.
Jordan Glenn’s trip Weiner Kids played a couple of shows too – at the Hemlock and then one up at the Ivy Room in Albany. That music is getting more and more fun to play – two saxes and drums – Cory Wright playing baritone in the group, me on alto. We’re getting to know the music better and having more fun with it. Going to record next week.
Weasel’s Quintet has played a few shows too – last night we played over at Kimo’s in SF – a good, short set, plenty of energy, but afterward Darren got the terrible news that his house had been set on fire by the crackhead who lives downstairs from him! I drove him to his place in the Castro, I couldn’t see the building, but on the way he talked to his girlfriend and it seemed like the important things (people, cats) were okay. Here’s hoping the rest is salvageable…..
Ton Trio played at the Ivy Room last month too. I asked Jordan Glenn to fill in for Sam Ospovat and he did a great job. It was good to play that music again, and now I’m writing more trio music to have when I head over with Kurt to Europe in a few weeks to meet up with Sam and play in Paris and Poland.
And finally, last weekend I took a trip over to New York with Jen. We found cheap flights a while back and decided to head over there. I put together a group with Matt Bauder, Jason Ajemian, and Harris Eisenstadt. I’ve been wanting a group with Matt for a while, and I think that this may be the start of that. Probably go back sometime in the fall to work more on it, but this was a good start. Played at a space in Long Island City called the Chocolate Factory. We only had one rehearsal and the set was on the short side, but the chemistry is good. We will see.

Out Today: Ton Trio’s The Way

Glad to announce the release of The Way, the debut album by Ton Trio:

The Oakland based Ton Trio is made up of Aram Shelton on alto saxophone and bass clarinet, Kurt Kotheimer on bass, and Sam Ospovat on drums. All three found their way to the San Francisco area after time in the Midwest, and each became active playing creative music shortly after their arrival. Ton Trio formed in the summer of 2007.

The music of Ton Trio is written by Shelton. Some pieces use the melodic and rhythmic material in a more traditional head format while in others the parts are interchangeable and can be explored extensively by each player, with parts being rearranged simultaneously to create new harmonic relationships.

‘The Way’ is the debut album by Ton Trio and the first CD release by Singlespeed Music. Six compositions by Shelton cover a lot of ground from high-energy freedom to compositional rearrangement.

‘The Way’ is available directly from Singlespeed Music, and through CD Baby.
Downloads will be available through iTunes, Rhapsody, and others.

Shelton / Healy 2-13-2009

Friday the 13th! Scary!

Not really. Freddy vs Jason? Alien vs Predator? Terrible movies definitely, but before this show started I had a pretty long talk with these flicks with Jordan Glenn, Chuck Johnson and Ben Bracken, all of whom also played this night at the Totally Intense Fractal MindGaze Hut in Oakland.

The first set was a piece by Chuck Johnson called Polystate. It’s an audiovisual piece that he developed as an installation but is also able to perform with. The basics are the use of scales to control audio and visual processes. Ben Bracken performed it with him. The sound was very measured and steady – a full blanket of sound.

Trevor Healy and I played the second set. it was one of the most focused sets that I remember us playing and we made great transitions from place to place with only one thing agreed on before we played – the note to start on. I liked this. We created some very full sounding sections and really moved our dynamics throughout the set. I think Chuck recorded the set – so I’m looking forward to hearing that.

The third set was the duo of Jordan Glenn and Kanoko Nishi. Drums and Koto. They covered alot of ground, at first I thought the drums would be too dominant as the room has some reverberation which can lend itself to too much drum – but Jordan knows what he’s doing and the balance worked well. They ended the set in a super solid way, completing the night. All three sets had similarities in terms of timing and patience, though the way that each duo achieved these qualities was very different.

Weasel Walter Quintet 2-9-09

Last monday night played at the Ivy Room up in Albany with Weasel’s quintet. Our last date was at the Uptown in Oakland. the big difference between that night and this one is that we’ve been rehearsing almost regularly, so we know the music better, and are able to take some more liberties with it. Easier for the horns to get away from the material and then back into it with smaller cues – which makes it flow better from composition to improvisation. Darren had a really great solo about midway through. We all played with alot of energy – you can see in this video:

Weasel Walter Quintet > Performance 2-9-2009 from weasel walter on Vimeo.

The first set of the night was the duo of Jacob Felix Heule and Tony Dryer – they did a very quiet set and had setup in a spot surrounded by the audience – a good way to counteract the muffled acoustics in the space while playing very quietly.
The last set was Bad Paradise, a group made up of Steve Dood, Cansafis of No Doctors and Andrew – electronic / experimental / weird / dance – a good set to cap off the night – the three sets were VERY different – which I like.