Aram Shelton's Fast Citizens, Ritwik Banerji Quintet | Hungry Brain | Jazz | Chicago Reader
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Aram Shelton's Fast Citizens, Ritwik Banerji Quintet Critic's Choice Member Picks Recommended The List (Music) Soundboard

When: Sun., Dec. 20, 10 p.m. 2009
Price: Donation requested.
Most of the members of Fast Citizens are composers and bandleaders in other settings, and the sextet have found a way to take advantage of this deep bench. Their debut album, 2006's Ready Everyday, was billed to Keefe Jackson's Fast Citizens, and Jackson wrote most of the music; the terrific new Two Cities (Delmark) is credited to Aram Shelton's Fast Citizens, and this time most of the songs are Shelton's. (No word yet on who'll have his name attached to the next record.) The ingenious arrangements on Two Cities make full use of the ensemble—reedists Jackson and Shelton, cornetist Josh Berman, cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, bassist Anton Hatwich, and drummer Frank Rosaly—to suggest a much larger group. On "The Twenty-Seven," the kwela-kissed "Two Cities" (both its title and its division into two sections refer to the fact that Shelton lives in Oakland, while the rest of the band is based here), and the gorgeous ballad "I Am Here, You Are There," which borrows the meditative chamber-jazz feel of the Charles Mingus Jazz Workshop's early work, the four-man front line shapes contrapuntal themes and shifting patterns with a rich variety of rhythms, timbres, and metabolic rates, often presenting two or three at once. Fast Citizens make improvisation their main focus, and frequently split into subgroupings to structure the activity: Berman and Jackson joust buoyantly at the start of "Big News," for instance, while the rest of the ensemble hangs back or lays out, and "In Cycles" isolates three different duos, one after another. Lonberg-Holm's "VRC #9," on the other hand, organizes the improvising with predetermined structures, including pointillistic stop-start blurts and a spinning lick that gets faster every time it repeats. The band will be a five-piece for this concert, minus Lonberg-Holm, and drummer Marc Riordan will fill in for Rosaly. —Peter Margasak

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