Skeeter Shelton brings his chops to Barking Legs with Joel Peterson
“Unsung genius.” That phrase comes up a lot in reviews of Detroit saxophonist Skeeter Shelton, who plays a one-night gig at Barking Legs Jan. 24 alongside Spectrum 2 and bassist Joel Peterson.
“Skeeter is probably the heaviest saxophonist in Detroit creative music right now,” Peterson says. “He’s definitely the only saxophonist to play in the U.S. Army Band, Joe Tex’s band and the Afro-futuristic, avant-jazz aggregate Griot Galaxy.”
Jazz is in Shelton’s blood. His father, drummer Adjaramu Shelton, was a charter member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), whose mission is to support jazz, most particularly experimental jazz.
According to the Encyclopedia of Chicago, “The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians represents one of the greatest organizational and aesthetic successes of modern African American music.
Founded by South Side musicians in 1965, it seved initially as a grassroots clearinghouse for local performances of a range of jazz-based styles.
Most commonly practiced was a startlingly original kind of experimental improvised music, which, in its difficulty and close-knit collective interaction, became a modernist marker of the radical collectivist politics many of the organization’s members espoused.”
“That meant Skeeter grew up with Roscoe Mitchell, Anthony Braxton and Joseph Jarman hanging out and showing him saxophone techniques at home,” says Peterson.
“When I put him on bills with major name players,” Peterson continues, “they are consistently amazed by his sound. After I subbed him in a duo with [drummer and percussionist] Hamid Drake on a double bill with [pianist] Matthew Shipp, Hamid and Matthew were blown away and agreed that, ‘There’s no one left in New York with that kind of tone!’”
The Detroit Metro Press describes Shelton’s technique like this: “Before organizing the right combination of notes, the ones that propel him into a kind of improvisational bliss, Shelton dissects the song’s melody. He blows so forcefully his horn appears to be on the verge of exploding.”
Shelton put out an album, Skeeter, in 1998, which featured his dad on drums and bassist Hakim Jami on bass. He has also performed on Jami’s albums Revealing (with James Blood Ulmer) and The Street Band Volume 1 and Volume 2.
Peterson himself is a creative music name. He’s performed in Chattanooga with Immigrant Suns, and collaborated with Rhys Chatham, Eugene Chadbourne, Damo Suzuki, Faruq Z. Bey, SRLS friend and collaborator Frank Pahl, Thollem McDonas, Tatsuya Nakatani, Steve Cohn, Amy Denio, Gino Robair, The Violent Femmes, and many others.
Co-sponsored by the Shaking Ray Levi Society (SRLS), jazz buffs are promised a “freewheeling evening for the stalwarts.” And speaking of free, the event is as well, so be sure and get there early to get a seat.
According to SRLS board president Ernie Paik (full disclosure: also a Pulse columnist), this concert kicks off a performance series, with other events to be announced.
The Shaking Rays are also coordinating a site to display the art pieces from the now-closed Wayne-O-Rama exhibit, as well as putting together a spring conference to teach people in the region how to be facilitators for The Rhythmic Arts Project (TRAP). To keep up with them, visit shakingray.com
Skeeter Shelton’s Spectrum 2 with Joel Peterson
Free, but seating is limited.
7 p.m., Jan. 24
Barking Legs Theatre
1307 Dobbs Ave.