the new times of a fast citizen

aram shelon quartet. clockwise from upper left: aram shelton, anton hatwich, marc riordan and keefe jackson.

the aram shelon quartet. clockwise from upper left: aram shelton, anton hatwich, marc riordan and keefe jackson.

What happens when a Fast Citizen decides to cool his stride a little? For tenor saxophonist and clarinetist Aram Shelton that means working with bandmates in his former hometown while residing at the opposite end of the country. But it also translates into establishing fresh musical directions.

Let’s rewind for a second. Just before Christmas, Shelton – a veteran of a vibrant Chicago jazz community now living in Oakland, Ca. – was onstage at Gumbo Ya Ya with Fast Citizens. The group is an indie jazz collective based in Chicago that shifts leadership roles with every album. Last winter was Shelton’s turn as chief Fast Citizen.

Friendships new and old within the band, as well as the desire to attempt a performance project that was a touch smaller, led to the formation of the Aram Shelton Quartet. That lineup – Shelton, fellow Fast Citizens Keefe Jackson (on tenor saxophone) and Anton Hatwich (on bass) along with Marc Riordan (who subbed for the band’s usual drummer, Frank Rosaly, on last winter’s tour) – plays Gumbo Ya Ya tonight.

“We definitely have a friendship,” Shelton said recently from his Oakland home. “I think that’s what’s coming through musically. We’re supporting each other. We’ve known each other for almost a decade. Even though we haven’t lived in the same space for a few years now, it’s still a classic case of picking up the conversation where you left off.”

Such camaraderie carries over to These Times, the quartet’s newly released debut recording. But while the album draws from the compositional strengths and improvisational invention of Fast Citizens, it also opens the music up.

For example, a patient, almost hushed, drum serenade from Riordan sets up the blue-tinged Relief while the minute-long blast of solo bass bliss by Hatwich on Rise and Set colors a contemplative Coltrane-like mood. Especially telling, though, is the animated harmony that ignites Rings and An Interrupted Stroll when Shelton and Jackson play off each other.

“I never really enjoyed playing with other saxophonists much,” Shelton said. “I always thought that was doing too much of the same thing. In a small group, a quartet, it seemed a little redundant. But in this group, it’s really fun to play with Keefe. Our styles compliment each other because we’re different.”

One thing that hasn’t changed from Fast Citizens is the challenge presented when a band chieftain lives in one city while the rest of the group resides in another. But Shelton said a little prioritizing keeps an ensemble spirit vital and alive with his Chicago mates.

“Whenever I’m in Chicago, I’m just a lot more focused. I can block out the other distractions. When you live in the same city as everyone else in your band, things can kind of get pushed off to the side. The good thing about doing the project from a distance, I guess, is that it’s a lot more focused. There is an urgency that can really push you along.”

The Aram Shelton Quartet performs at 8 p.m. July 31 at Gumbo Ya Ya in the Bar Lexington complex, 367 E. Main. $5. Call (859) 523-9292.

South Carolina Law Enforcement Back Child Tax Credit To Cut Crime.(Report) this web site child tax credit 2011

Biotech Week April 21, 2010 South Carolina law enforcement leaders called for the expansion of federal child tax credits for working families struggling in today’s recession, as a way to prevent future crime. At a news conference Wednesday, Rock Hill Chief of Police John Gregory, Fairfield County Sheriff Herman Young, Sumter Chief of Police Patty Patterson and York County Deputy Solicitor Willy Thompson called on Congressional leaders to allow more families to receive the child tax credit. Representative John Spratt of South Carolina’s 5th Congressional District joined them as they released new research about the link between low incomes and criminal activity. Click here to view the research report released at today’s press conference (see also Fight Crime: Invest in Kids).

While most kids who grow up poor never become criminals, growing up in poverty increases the risk of involvement in crime. Allowing more lower-income families to keep more of their earned income would help lift more children out of poverty and decrease the likelihood that the children will commit crimes as adults.

“This will really help many of our lower-income families keep more of their earned income,” Chief Gregory said.” It will also help make sure that this economic downturn doesn’t lead to a generation of future criminals.” Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicates that when parents’ incomes are increased to above the poverty level, children in those families exhibit fewer behavioral problems and, as a result, are significantly less likely to turn to a life of crime. By allowing working parents to keep more of their income, the child tax credit would help more families make ends meet and ensure that fewer children are exposed to the worst risk factors for crime, the law enforcement leaders said.

The law enforcement leaders called on Congress to continue to improve the child tax credit, which was expanded through the 2009 Recovery Act, by making room in the 2011 budget for a child tax credit refundable to the first dollar of earned income. Currently families only get the credit, which is 15% of earned income up to a maximum of $1,000 per child, once they have earned at least $3,000. If Congress does not act, the threshold will increase from $3,000 back to the previous amount of $12,850, excluding even more poor, working parents from receiving the tax credit.

In the United States, children are more likely to be living in poverty than any other age group. In the Carolinas, approximately one in five children are growing up in poverty. Unemployment rates in the Carolinas have spiked over the last year; between December 2008 and December 2009, North Carolina’s unemployment rate climbed from 8 percent to just over 11 percent, while South Carolina’s rate climbed from just under 9 percent to 12.6 percent.

“We know that we can cut crime by cutting child poverty. Congressman Spratt is a leader when it comes to fighting for policies that benefit children and increase public safety,” Sheriff Young said. “Law enforcement leaders will stand shoulder to shoulder with him as he makes sure that the child tax credit is a top priority as he works this month with his colleagues in Congress to draft the federal budget for the coming year.” The current Child Tax Credit, as enhanced by the recovery package, provides help to 253,000 South Carolina children in families who would otherwise stand to lose these benefits if Congress takes no legislative action. These are the families most likely to spend the money rather than save it, which also keeps more dollars flowing through the local economy. site child tax credit 2011

“From a law enforcement perspective, all the choices we make have to be in the interests of public safety,” Chief Patterson said. “This not only helps kids get the right start in life, it also will make South Carolina communities safer and better places to live.” Chief Gregory, Sheriff Young and Chief Patterson are members of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, an anti-crime organization of more than 5,000 police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors and violence survivors, including 125 in South Carolina.

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