Aram Shelton

Aram Shelton is an improviser and composer who performs on saxophone, clarinets, and live electronics. He plays with a distinct, harmonically rich sound and develops musical thoughts through constant motion, tonal shifts and complex sounds alongside clear melodic and rhythmic constructs. His vocabulary utilizes the range of extended techniques including multiphonics & harmonics, circular breathing, wind sounds and an exploration of the outer ranges of the instrument. He focuses on creative music grounded in and influenced by the rich history of avant-jazz and free improvisation; his writing and playing has been documented through more than two dozen albums to date. He's been an integral member of the creative music communities in the Bay Area and Chicago, and has recently relocated to Copenhagen.

Shelton creates music aesthetically guided by the musicians he works with. In Oakland (2005-2016), he developed music for the avant jazz quartet Gold Age; the creative free jazz Ton Trio II; his solo electroacoustic project Tonal Masher; the chamber improv group Broken Trap Ensemble; the electroacoustic Stratic; the collaborative quartet Cylinder; his sextet Marches; and the Oakland Active Orchestra. In Chicago (1999 - 2005) he created music with his Quartet, the cooperative sextet Fast Citizens, Jason Adasiewicz’ Rolldown, Dragons 1976; Arrive; the electroacoustic duo Grey Ghost, and others.

Aram Shelton with Larry Ochs, Mark Dresser and Kjell Nordeson at the Stone in NYC. Photo by Peter Gannushkin / DOWNTOWNMUSIC.NET

Photo by Peter Gannushkin / DOWNTOWNMUSIC.NET

Recently Shelton has performed with Ole Mofjell, Axel Dörner, Håkon Berre, Henrik Pultz Melbye, Carl Ludwig Hübsch, Matthias Müller, Jasper Stadhouders, Martin Blume, Simon Camatta, Robert Landfermann and Kyle Bruckmann's Degradient. In the past he has been fortunate to perform with many exceptional musicians from the Bay Area, Chicago and New York scenes including Larry Ochs, Jordan Glenn, Kjell Nordeson, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Frank Rosaly, Cory Wright, Kristina Dutton, Tim Daisy, Mark Clifford, Safa Shokrai, Britt Ciampa, Theresa Wong, Jason Adasiewicz, Josh Berman, Keefe Jackson, Matt Bauder, Alex Vittum, Michael Coleman, Lisa Mezzacappa, Darren Johnston, Henry Kaiser, Jon Raskin, Steve Adams, Bruce Ackley, Jacob Felix-Heule, Jacob Wick, William Winant, Mark Dresser, Weasel Walter, Mary Halvorson, Josh Sinton, Jason Ajemian, Ken Vandermark, Audrey Chen, Tony Buck, Magda Mayas, James Fei, Damon Smith and many others.

Aram Shelton performing Tonal Masher. Photo by Jennifer Dunn

Photo by Jennifer Dunn

Shelton studied electroacoustic music and recording techniques at Mills College in Oakland, California. He continues to improvise and compose electroacoustic music focused on the concepts illustrated in his graduate thesis Sound Extended: Replication of Acoustic Material and Phrase Modification.

Shelton’s past performances in Europe, Canada and the United States include at the Copenhagen Jazz Festival, the Switchboard Music Festival, Soundwave, the Monterey Jazz Festival, Chicago Jazz Festival, the Suoni per il Popolo Festival, and the Krakow Autumn Jazz Festival. He has led workshops at the Evergreen State College, the Luzern Jazz School, through NEXMAP and at UC Santa Cruz. As a curator he founded the Active Music Series and Active Music Festival. His playing and music are available through Delmark, Clean Feed, Cuneiform, 482 Music, and his own Singlespeed Music.

Aram Shelton. Photo by Lenny Gonzalez

Photo by Lenny Gonzalez

Tonal Masher is the solo electroacoustic project of Aram Shelton. By removing the mouthpiece and reed, Shelton explores a different aspect of a 1937 Conn alto saxophone. Starting with feedback generated via saxophone, microphone and amplifier, Shelton uses nontraditional fingerings to coax an instrument specific set of tones from the vintage horn. He then uses a self designed Max patcher to create music that features patient polyphony from a generally monophonic instrument, and highlights the percussive aspects of the saxophone via key clicks and pad thumps.

Since 2001, Shelton has been using computer based live sampling via Max/MSP in a variety of setting to process and extend acoustic instruments. In 2002 he formed the duo Grey Ghost (482 Music) with the drummer Johnathan Crawford. The Wire found their music to be a “focused symbiosis of breath and circuitry”. In 2007 he received his MFA in Electronic Music from Mills College where he studied with John Bischoff, Maggie Payne and Chris Brown. His thesis focused on the use of live sampling to extend and rearrange the sounds of acoustic instruments in a live performance setting. Since graduating he has taught at the Oakland School for the Arts and has led improvisation and electroacoustic music workshops in San Francisco, at UC Santa Cruz, Evergreen State University and the jazz school in Luzern (CH). From 2010 to 2012 he joined Michael Coleman and Alex Vittum in the trio Stratic. All About Jazz compared their music to “a waking dream memory of music”. In the past year, Shelton has focused on solo electroacoustic music, based on explorations of the resonant feedback frequencies that are unique to the saxophone. Due to the ongoing concept of sonic rearrangement, Shelton has chosen the anagram Tonal Masher as an apt moniker..

Aram Shelton

Photo by Geert Vandepoele

See Tonal Masher on YouTube

Visit my label Singlespeed Music

Hear more at Soundcloud or Bandcamp

Watch at YouTube

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For questions or booking, send me a message:


  • October 7: Aram Shelton / Ole Mofjell Duo.
    Sowieso, Berlin. 20:00
  • October 8: Aram Shelton / Ole Mofjell Duo.
    T Berlin, Berlin, DE. 20:00
  • October 9: Aram Shelton / Ole Mofjell Duo.
    PØKK, Trondheim, NO. 20:00
  • October 10: Aram Shelton / Ole Mofjell Duo.
    Ni Muser, Trondheim, NO. 20:00
  • October 11: Aram Shelton / Ole Mofjell Duo.
    Playdate, Bergen, NO. 20:00
  • October 16: Aram Shelton, Henrik Pultz-Melbye, Mads Egetoft.
    Mandagsklubben at 5E. Copenhagen, DK.
  • November 6: Chris Brown and Aram Shelton.
    Mandagsklubben at 5E. Copenhagen, DK.
  • November 7: Chris Brown, Aram Shelton and Søren Kjærgaard.
    Koncertkirken. Copenhagen, DK.
  • November 27: Shelton Berre Duo.
    Mandagsklubben at 5E. Copenhagen, DK.

Past Performances:

  • September 25: Aram Shelton / Ole Mofjell Duo.
    Mandagsklubben at 5E. Copenhagen, DK. 23:00.
  • September 11: Aram Shelton, Tomo Jacobson, Anders Vestergaard.
    Mandagsklubben at 5E. Copenhagen, DK. 23:00
  • June 20: Frontburner with Shelton, Henrik Pultze Melbye, Jeppe Skovbakke, Rune Lohse. Shelton Berre Duo with Shelton and Håkon Berre.
    Koncertkirken. Copenhagen. 20:00.
  • July 12: Shelton Berre Duo with Shelton and Håkon Berre.
    Koncertkirken. Copenhagen Jazz Fest. 17:00.
  • July 13: Aram Shelton Sound Trio with Ole Mofjell and Johannes Vaht.
    Koncertkirken. Copenhagen Jazz Fest. 16:30.
  • July 16: Shelton Berre Duo with Shelton and Håkon Berre.
    H15 Barefoot Stage. Copenhagen Jazz Fest. 21:30.
  • May 20: Kyle Bruckmann's Degradient "Dear Everyone".
    The Lab. San Francisco 20:00.
  • May 18: Some music from Jordan Glenn with Wiener Kids and Beak.
    Studio Grand. Oakland. 21:00.
  • May 1: Aram Shelton, Simon Camatta, Matthias Müller, Carl Ludwig Hübsch.
    Essen, Alte Mitte. 20:00
  • April 30: Aram Shelton, Simon Camatta, Matthias Müller, Carl Ludwig Hübsch.
    Köln, Atelier Dürrenfeld. 20:00
  • April 28: Aram Shelton, Jasper Stadhouders, Robert Landfermann, Martin Blume.
    Köln, King Georg. 21:00
  • April 20: Front Burner (Melbye/Shelton/Skovbakke/Lohse).
    Copenhagen, Armadillo Eventcafé 20:00
  • February 23: Aram Shelton Solo + Lab Trio (BE).
    Vinterjazz. Koncertkirken. København. 20:00.
  • February 2: Tonal Masher + Jonathan Pyon / Jenny Gräf / Marcela Lucatelli.
    Sorgenfri at 5E. 20:00.
  • December 28: Tonal Masher.
    Mayhem, Copenhagen. 20:00