The Fast Citizens are the Chicago based sextet of Aram Shelton, Keefe Jackson, Josh Berman, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Anton Hatwich and Frank Rosaly. Formed in 2002 by Jackson, the Fast Citizens have decided upon a rotating leader chair and for their sophomore release Shelton has taken the reins as main composer. The title Two Cities reflects the geographic locale of Shelton, (currently based in Oakland, California), and his continued relationship with the active music scene in Chicago. Focusing on orchestration and structural variety, the Fast Citizens present a stylistically diverse album that includes hard swing, lush ballads, high-energy free improvisation, modern composition and Sun-Ra inspired grooves.
Fast Citizens continues to forge its own direction, reaching beyond formulaic conventions to embrace new forms. -All About Jazz
Their debut album, Ready Everyday (Delmark DE-571), was hailed by critics and described as "a meeting of highly skilled and individualistic players who channel their hard work into a cogent and coherent whole". Two Cities documents the progress of this unique ensemble, comprised of increasingly visible members of the international jazz and improvised music community.
Excerpts from the liner notes by John Litweiler, author of The Freedom Principle: Jazz After 1958, and Ornette Coleman, A Harmolodic Life:
There's no comparing this music to any other. True, flashes of sound and song suggest kinship with other artists, and moreover, as Larry Kart pointed out in the Ready Everyday notes, jazz's past has enriched Fast Citizens' present: "These are the ears and sensibilities of musicians who know both their Ornette Coleman and their Sidney Bechet, their Morton Feldman and their Ruby Braff..." Yes, their sense of playing together has been refined by experience and big ears. More than that, and I think the reason this album is so moving, is each man's strong sense of presence, immediacy....
Emphatically, all the Fast Citizens don't just improvise -- they compose on the spot, together. It's what Shelton does, especially in The Twenty-Seven in the loveliest alto-sax solo I've heard Mr. Coleman came to town... He plays clarinet in In Cycles, building a musical edifice with spaced, broken phrases and stuttered notes, and in another alto style, with many notes, in his Two Cities trio improvisation... each of his improvisations has its own integrity, its unity, its sense of being composed on the spot.