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On the Scene: 'Fast' friends connect with jazz

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CHANGING CITIZENS: Fast Citizens will end the year how it began: playing music together.

The experimental jazz band will perform tonight at The Whig. This incarnation of Fast Citizens will be similar to the one that played at Hunter-Gatherer in September 2007. There will be one distinct difference: Aram Shelton will be leading the band instead of multi-reedist Keefe Jackson.

Cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, bassist Anton Hatwich, cornetist Josh Berman and drummer Frank Rosaly convened with Shelton and Jackson in Chicago in January to record the band's second album, "Two Cities." (Rosaly, who recently played a blistering show at 701 CCA with Dave Rempis, won't play at The Whig. Marc Riordan will play percussion.)

The sextet played three shows and then recorded the album. It was all done in one week.

"It was a lot of work, and it was pretty intense," said Shelton, who plays saxophone and clarinet. "I was pretty excited about doing it. I had had some ideas for the group before."

Shelton, who lives in Oakland, began composing the music about a month before the session. Instead of any particular compositional idea, he wrote specifically for the band's members.

"They're all really willing to try out my ideas because I'm willing to try out their ideas," said Shelton, whose band Arrive held a two-night stand in town in August last year.

"I think they appreciated my ideas because I wrote it with them in mind."

So what's different?

Whereas Fast Citizen's first record, "Ready Everyday," released in 2006, hinged on a lot of swing movements and playing in time, "Two Cities" has a lot of out-of-time improvisation.

"It expanded the palette of the band more," Shelton said. "We're adding this new element with a lot of open freedom in the song.

"There's so many possibilities that we have that I should take advantage of and emphasize."

There's more harmonizing and interlocking of instruments. And there's more rigidity in the song structure, which, Shelton said, allows more flexibility for improvisation.

"There's a lot of parts where the things are interconnected," said Shelton, who is playing in no less than three other projects, including Marches, a quartet of two saxophones, an organ and drums. "It's fun to have that many instruments so you can make those things happen together."

The Fast Citizens' five-date tour is the first time the band has played the music since it recorded it, save a gig in Serbia last summer. How will the material look - and sound - when the members revisit it?

"For me, it's about familiarity and wanting to get back to what we've done earlier in the year," Shelton said. "There's a little more freedom in the improvising because we know where it's going."

The show starts at 8:30 p.m. The Whig is at 1200 Main St. $8; (803) 931-8852

CHRISTMAS PARTY: The Finesse Band, the R&B band guitarist Terence Young leads, will be performing at a Christmas party at Rust tonight.

But it's not going to be a show with only Christmas songs. Young said the set will probably include a maximum of three, two of which are "This Christmas" and "Christmas Just Ain't Christmas (Without the One You Love)."

A Christmas party not being dominated by Christmas music? That sounds like my kind of holiday gathering.

The show will be comprised of mostly old school R&B songs. The Finesse Band wants people to dance.

"Christmas parties, to a lot of folks, it's just a party celebrating the holidays," Young said. "(The show) is not dedicated to Christmas."

The party starts at 9 p.m. Rust is at 918 Gervais St. $20; (803) 251-2405

CONGRATULATIONS: To Bentz Kirby and May Weatherwax on their wedding at Tom Hall's house. I hope you stayed dry Saturday. More important, I hope you stay happy - and involved with the music scene.

Things wouldn't be as connected without Kirby, and we all know this to be true.

UPCOMING:

I have only have one best of list this year, and that's the best shows I saw in 2009. That will run Jan. 1. Next week, On the Scene will recap what the scene was talking about this year.

It really was a good year.

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