Shelton Berman Walter - Last Distractions

Aram Shelton – alto saxophone, soprano saxophone,  bass clarinet
Josh Berman – cornet
Weasel Walter – drums

Last Distractions (Singlespeed) is a different bird entirely, joining Berman and Shelton with percussionist Weasel Walter. The story goes that Walter and Berman met as roommates in Chicago, though of the three only Berman still calls Chi-town home. Rather than the customary alto and Bb clarinet, Shelton employs soprano and bass clarinet here for a wider-ranging palette. The effect of the opening “Straw Men” (like all pieces here, a collective improvisation) is something akin to Steve Lacy’s The Forest and The Zoo (ESP, 1966) on crack: loosely frenetic interplay, slashing but with a profound swing. Berman’s cornet playing is steely, fat and round, strikingly reminiscent of early jazz players yet thrown into a modern, free twist. His solo in the waning minutes of “Ad Hominem I” is simply incredible. Walter’s percussive approach is reliant on sharp relief and clear relationships at medium volume, gradual projections of sound that keeps the trio in constant motion. What separates this date from a number of Walter’s own “free music” recordings is the bubble and bounce inherent in both front line players – Shelton’s leaky wooden swallows are melodic and cool, even as his phrases are dive-bombed by roto toms and brassy shriek. The rapport between all three is palpable and, while a bit of a “lengthy” slice, Last Distractions is full of extremely fine music.


Clifford Allen, Austinist, 2010