Dragons 1976 | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Since moving here from Florida in 1999, Aram Shelton has become one of the most valuable players on the local improvised-music scene. Equally adept on clarinet, laptop, and alto saxophone, he's done everything from negotiating Guillermo Gregorio's challenging graphic scores to tearing off paint-peeling solos with Berlin-based drummer Tony Buck--and in his own groups, like the chamber-jazz ensemble Arrive and the electroacoustic duo Grey Ghost, he covers even more ground. Dragons 1976, his trio with bassist Jason Ajemian and drummer Tim Daisy (all three were born in '76, the Chinese Year of the Dragon), mostly sticks to straight-ahead jazz, but this narrow focus just seems to increase the music's intensity. On last year's On Cortez (Locust), Ajemian's elegant plucked lines and Shelton's sweet-and-sour alto leads often twine around each other in contrapuntal melodies, and the rhythm section swings even at its most tumultuous. Since those sessions they've found ways to stretch out without endangering their coherence or user-friendliness: "Passage," a tune they played on tour last fall, moves between statements of its soulful theme, an extended drone section, and an intricate, suspenseful cymbal solo. The Dragons are working on a new studio record, but this is your last chance to hear them in concert for the foreseeable future--in two months Shelton heads for the Bay Area to attend grad school at Mills College. Sun 6/12, 10 PM, Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont, 773-935-2118, donation requested.

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