Chip Shelton is an unusual figure in jazz. With half of his time devoted to his practice as an orthodontist, he is able to devote the rest of his time to the study and performance of jazz flute, performing on the entire flute family from piccolo to bass, and working with a variety of ensembles, his own quartets and quintets as well as the New York Flutet
, with Elise Wood, Dotti Anita Taylor, Jan Leder, and Michelle Smith, and for a while, in the mid 1990s, the World Flute Orchestra
an ensemble that featuring just about every jazz flutist on the Eastern Seaboard! In all these projects, Shelton has the distinction of being a true amateur musician, not with the unfortunate meaning of lack of commitment and competence that the word seems to have taken on, but in the sense of independence and devotion that it originally indicated. (There was a time, for example, when only an amateur could captain the English cricket team!)
Shelton's most recent release was actually recorded in 1994, and teams Shelton with veteran bassist Ron Carter, who brought his own quartet to the session and also acted as producer. The selection of the material was entirely Shelton's however, and he has selected a varied program with two standards, I'll Remember April
and Tadd Dameron's The Scene is Clean
, and the rest his own compositions, each of which has a distinctly different feel, from Afro-pop, Biko and Mandela
, and Reggae, In an Island Way
, to funk, Keep Hope Alive
--played on bass flute-- blues, Blue Chip
--a flute/bass duet--and a ballad, Surrender
. As a climax, Shelton has produced a multi-tracked version of Chopin's Valse Opus 18
featuring unaccompanied C, alto, and bass flutes, reminiscent of Paul Horn's Music
recording from the 1980s.
The variety and quality of the material maintains interest throughout the program, and the rhythm section is top quality; Carter's bass lines catch the ear throughout and Scott contributes several tasteful solos. As for Shelton himself, he lists his influences as Hubert Laws, Herbie Mann and Yusef Lateef, without sounding like any of them. He does not have Hubert's technique, but who does? Like Mann and Lateef, on the other hand, he has learned to compensate for more limited technique, in his case with rhythmic interest, and the judicious use of the whole family of flutes. If you enjoy flute this is worth checking out.