• Lenny Gonzalez
  • Aram Shelton

Next week former Chicagoan Aram Shelton makes one of his regular return visits, but this time he’s employing local players to bring to life projects he developed in the Bay Area, where he moved in 2005, rather than doing things the other way around. He’s clearly settled into his life in California, developing a strong network of associates, presenting live music regularly, and writing with fresh concepts in mind. Earlier this year the alto saxophonist released one of his strongest albums yet with On and On (Singlespeed Music), a brisk, joyful postbop session recorded with Ton Trio II (the latest incarnation of his Oakland trio, now with bassist Scott Brown and drummer Alex Vittum), and for his Thursday concert at Constellation he’ll present two newer projects also conceived on the west coast.

The first segment of Thursday’s show will be Canyonlands, a project in which four players, including Shelton, interpret graphic scores derived from trail maps of the Canyonlands National park in Utah. As Shelton explained in an e-mail, “The members of the quartet playing the piece will cue the group to go to an intersection [of trails on the map], and each of us will be able to choose our individual route.” He’ll be joined by vibist Jason Adasiewicz, bassist Anton Hatwich, and reedist Keefe Jackson for this interactive piece, but you can check out a couple of excerpts made with the Bay Area version of the project (Shelton, Hatwich, reedist James Fei, and vibist Mark Clifford) here.

The second part of the evening will feature The Days Are the Same, an extended 30-minute work Shelton composed for the Oakland Active Orchestra. The piece wends through many styles and shapes, with generous passages of improvisation scattered through the sophisticated arrangements, which feature fluttering drones, chamberlike counterpoint, and propulsive rhythmic schemes influenced by Afrobeat, all fed through a distinctively jazzlike sensibility. You can check out a performance of the piece from the 2013 Switchboard Festival in San Francisco below. The Chicago version of the group will be short a bassoonist and feature one less percussionist, but Shelton will be joined by Hatwich, Adasiewicz, Jackson, saxophonist Dave Rempis, cornetist Josh Berman, trumpeter Russ Johnson, cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, and drummer Frank Rosaly.

Today’s playlist:

George Schuller’s Circle Wide, Listen Both Ways (Playscape)
Cheo Feliciano, Estampas (Fania)
Ormonde, Machine (Hometapes)
Survival, Survival (Thrill Jockey)
Masayuki “JoJo” Takayanagi, Action Direct (Tiliqua)