\ Chip Shelton Biography


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CHIP SHELTON

With incredible talent and perseverance, Chip Shelton has earned an undisputed reputation as one of the most renowned flutists in the world of jazz. The flute, with its high-pitched tone, didn’t start out as a swinging jazz instrument until Frank Wess first popularized it as a member of Count Basie’s Big Band. He set the standard for such noted flutists as Yusef Lateef, Herbie Mann, Charles Lloyd, and Hubert Laws that further propelled the instrument into the jazz spotlight. What separates Shelton from his legendary predecessors is his ability as a multi-instrumentalist. He utilizes the entire flute family from the tiny piccolo, Bb flute, concert flute in C, alto flute, bass flute, (the five-foot) contra-bass flute to the end-blown flute (custom fitted so it can be played in a saxophone position), and ethnic wood flutes. “These instruments are more difficult to play, but I’m willing to work harder to produce these different sounds that people don’t ordinarily hear,” says Shelton. “Since many of these instruments aren’t seen regularly on stage they are real conversation pieces.” Shelton’s varied arsenal also includes percussion, keyboards, the unique saxophones C-tenor, and C-soprano.


While most musicians manage to release an album every two years or more, the industrious Shelton may be the only artist who, who in recent years, releases an album every year, alternating between studio and live recordings. The live recordings are part of a series called “Have Flute Will Travel.” Like James Brown, he is the hardest working man in show business touring before and after every project. You can credit him for his eagerness to share his music with the world and Summit Records, who released his last five albums, for sharing his unique concept. Shelton has had an impressive eight releases to date. Beginning with “A Labor Of Love” (Rise Up Records, 1995) which was recorded live at New York City’s Five Spot jazz club, and received shining reviews. A critic for Jazz Times wrote, “Shelton pushes Eddie Harris’ ‘Listen Here’ with touches of vocal sounds blending with his instrument.” Shelton’s work is an expanding jazz tapestry that drives his musical concepts while expounding on his musicianship. “Since that first CD, my music is less classically based and my improvisational construction is more open,” says Shelton. “I’m coming more from the soul as opposed to playing structure. What I’m about now shines more.” Shelton’s “shine” has always been apparent to his listening audiences. His live CDs, (the aforementioned “Have Flute Will Travel,” series) demonstrate his dynamic live performances. On the first of the series, “Stop 1 Berlin,” Shelton and his band which includes a combination of expatriates (mostly American) and native Berlin musicians, come hard. The quartet is swinging on 10 cylinders. Everyone is mean on this one from the opening cut “Well You Needn’t” (Thelonious Monk). All seven tracks are real barn burners as Shelton swings high above the flames on his end-blown concert flute. On “Cape May Jazz Festival Stop 2,” (2 CD set) Shelton introduces another concept to the “Have Flute Will Travel” series: his working band PeaceTime that infuses a soulful stride. On the tune “Imprints,” a swinging subtle romp (penned by Shelton) he displays his talent on soprano saxophone. On Sonny Rollins’ “St. Thomas,” Shelton returns to flute while giving his band room to walk, as he belts out hip flute riffs that flow like a warm Caribbean breeze. 4 ½ stars says All Music Guide. Regardless of Shelton’s repertoire of reggae, funk or straight ahead jazz penned by such notables as John Coltrane, Freddie Hubbard, or Pharoah Sanders, he always leaves his fans and new listeners wanting more. On his latest CD, “Imbued With Memories,” Shelton makes full use of PeaceTime to showcase his skills as a composer, contributing six of the 10 tracks as he makes an impressive appearance (his third) on saxophones. “My musical options opened up when I started playing sax again,” says Shelton. Shelton always wanted to be involved in music but he graduated from Howard University’s School of Dentistry, as a back-up. While still a freshman at Howard in Washington, DC, Shelton was on a mission for a $35 saxophone. Unfortunately, his sax budget was too small but the owner of Baltimore’s North Avenue Pawn Shop convinced him to buy a nice flute. In the beginning, Shelton played by ear, then in 1988-90, he studied with John Purcell privately, and at the Manhattan School of Music, as a Jazz Flute major. Following his departure from the School of Music, he studied classical technique with Julius Baker, “the Dean of American flutists.” He also studied musicianship with Dr. Helen Hobbs Jordan. Shelton received additional mentorship at Jazzmobile, Inc. mainly from masters like Jimmy Heath and Frank Foster, and with Bill Barron at The Muse, in Brooklyn, in an effort to learn everything he could about jazz. With confidence to test his chops in front of a tough New York City audience, Shelton hit the local club scene performing at the Cellar, Birdland, the Five Spot, and other clubs. “The music has a life of its own and I just follow the muse,” said Shelton. His upcoming dates include a fall 2008 tour, portions to be recorded for projected release in early 2009. -- Ron Scott, 7/30/08 --

In Summary:
Chip Shelton, nicknamed by an admiring fan, “Chocolate Chip”, serves up his own chocolate-tasty flavor of soulfully diverse jazz; and, audiences can’t get enough of the Coltrane- inspired energy boost they experience, once consumed. The Chip Shelton performance energy has caused some of his accompanying musicians to dub him “ the hardest working man in show business”, a distinction once reserved for R&B icon James Brown. Now, in the 2000's, with expanded musical landscapes and horizons, within the multi-artful genre categorized as jazz, Chip Shelton performances incorporate multi-instrumental diversity, elements of vocal expression, and body expression/dance to resurrect the type of pulsating drive and audience- participation that have characterized many of our most memorable concert experiences.

Recordings include:
“Christmas Is My Time of Year” (ca.1985);
“Plan Your Dreams” (1992);
“Flute Bass-ics”, feat. Ron Carter (1994);
Spirit of Life Ensemble: “Feel the Spirit” (1994);
“A Labor of Love” (1995);
Paul Serrato: “Neon Palm Tree” (1995);
“3 Flutes Up” (1998);
Ryo Kawasaki: “Cosmic Rhythm” (1999);
“More What Flutes 4" (2000);
Paul Serrato: “More Than Red” (2001).

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