what we talk
Music for the radio program This American Life
Bitter Love Songs
We Were The Phliks
Song Songs Song
From the Diary of Dog Drexel
Five Frozen Eggs
Disaster at Sea
Running with Scissors
Diese CD erschien zwar schon
im vergangenen Herbst. Da mir This American Life damals abhanden kam, sie hier im AMM-Forum aber unbedingt besprochen werden sollte, denn sie ist wirklich erstaunlich, im folgenden nun ein kleiner Text darüber. Der in Köln lebende US-Gitarrist ist kein Unbekannter in der Improviser-Scene, nahm Scott Fields doch beispielsweise mit den Protagonisten Hamid Drake, Gerry Hemingway, Joseph Jarman, Myra Melford, Otomo Yoshihide oder Matt Turner Musik auf. Sein neues Album, ca. Fields 32 Produktion, liefert die Musik des in Chicago gesendeten Radioprogramms This American Life. Allerdings kein schlichter Hintergrund-Klangteppich ist hier zu hören, sondern der ebenbürtige Partner neben David Sedaris, dem Autor und Sprecher der Story (ist auf der CD nicht dabei!). In den fünf von Fields komponierten Stücken gönnen sich der Gitarrist und seine drei Kollegen Sebastian Gramss (Kontrabass), João Lobo (Perkussion) und Scott Roller (Cello) alle Zeit und gelegentlich auch Ruhe der Welt. Ohne jemals in abgehobener Coolness zu erstarren, spielen sie absolut klar und intensiv ihr sensibles Free-Jazz-Ding. Konsequent und voller Emotion!!à(Viel Vergnügen bei der Entdeckung wünscht
Olaf Maikopf, All My Jazz
The bassist here, Sebastian Gramss,
featured on Das Mollsche Gesetzs Catalogue Of Improvisation, which I reviewed in The Wire 303. DMGs improvisations follow two rules: no piece should last more than 60 seconds, and each should be followed by a pause of the same duration as the music. In contrast, Scott Fields allows the musicians to stretch out, and all five tracks last around a quarter-hour. With a line-up like this (electric guitar, cello, bass, drums), the label chamber jazz always hovers menacingly, but it is not particularly helpful as shorthand. Fields and co produce thoughtful music, but not unduly cerebral, dry or cautious the improvisations are adventurous, constantly engaging and often passionate. The last Fields album I heard, Dénouement (Clean Feed) took more than a decade to get a proper release. Fortunately, this very impressive session has taken only a year to escape. Incidentally, This American Life is a Chicago Public Radio show that its producers describe as movies for the radio, and if this CD is anything to go by, it must be addictive listening.
Barry Witherden, The Wire
Complete with the requisite word
American in its title, Chicago-born Köln-based guitarist Scott Fields offers his vision of Americana on this CD, with themes ostensibly composed to be used by This American Life, a long-running radio program on Chicagos WBEZ.
Before fearing that Fields has become a Bill Frisell doppelganger, wedded to country and folk-flavored tropes, his sardonic track explanations suggest otherwise. His comments about the shows carpetbagger host scavenging music to be sliced, diced, mixed, and fried may prevent these themes from reaching their intended market. More to the point, each of the five tracks operates on multiple levels, with atonal and contrapuntal asides and extensions sneaking out from within the rolling, lyrical narratives.
Additionally, this American Life is played by two expatriate Yanks, one German and one Portuguese. In different combinations the other players have worked with Fields on earlier CDs. Texas-born cellist Scott Roller, who moved to Germany in 1984, usually works with New Music ensembles such as Musikfabrik NRW, the Helios String Quartet and Frankfurts Ensemble Modern. German bassist Sebastian Gramss plays with saxophonist Frank Gratkowski and in the large James Choice Orchestra, while João Lobo, who is himself expatriated in Belgium, skillfully moves between playing jazz and Portuguese popular music.
Intricately connected throughout, most of the pieces evolve from Gramss brisk walking slaps and Lobos rhythmic rebounds, rolls and energetic drum head popping. Rollers split tone excursions are so staccato and high-pitched that the resulting sounds often resemble those of a soprano saxophone as much as a string set. Meanwhile Fields plucks, twangs and pulses rarely push the tempo quicker than moderato.
Two instances of where this cohesion works are Can He Make a W? and That and a Dime
Taken languidly, the former depends on thick bass thumps and unforced drum drags as spidery guitar runs and cello portamento lead to cohesive trade-offs between the two string players. As the cellists tone becomes lighter, the piece climaxes with darker story-telling vamps from Fields.
In contrast That and a Dime
is heartier and heavier with stress provided by string drones. Then as Gramss gently and gradually modulates the underlying pulses, both the guitarist and cellist scrub and slap their strings to produce sharp, sweeping sul ponticello concordance. Later they divide, with Fields output feathery and delicate outlined against Rollers glissandi. As these two unroll rubato pulses, the textures are complemented with walking connection from Gramss and Lobos clip-clopping shuffles. A final, speedier variation knits together Lobos pops, ruffs and drags, Fields buzzing runs and staccato pumps from the arco players.
Droll or not, snatches of these compositions may be unrecognizable if played between stories on This American Life if that situation is actually possible. More fruitful for those who appreciate improvised music, would be to listen to this CD and the pieces in complete form.
Ken Waxman, Jazzword