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Marco Carcasi     Four pieces of Scott Fields with addition of a fifth piece assembled by Gregory Taylor using soloist improvisations of the members of band, a zigzagging job this, lost between sour and sweet melodies; child of so many outlines, as well as enormous bursts of fire from the trumpet of Greg Kelley. The breaths of the Nperign school become diluted in a series of melodic contortions that are in fact fascinating, creating solutions certainly not new but surely captivating as few have been. Composition and improvisation keep pace with each other, making swells along the way on evolutions—sometimes very much Coleman-like—of Guillermo Gregorio on alto sax and on clarinet, and in a caustic vein that animates and guides the actions of the good Kelley on the trumpet. In truth there is very little in the way of real ostinati, nervetheless, the first track flows a little strangely, lunar, between pursuing winds and percussion that has a ceramic quality; the discourse changes remarkably in the case of Pissed with its structure perennially in the balance between hysteria and moments of apparent calm where the tension is really palpable before falling headfirst into an abyss of dissonance, sort of ecstatic in form; a kind of ritual emigration guided by the contortions of the winds. The following track, Bummed, churns up new phantoms of the house of Kelley, replacing the roughness that more usually characterizes them with a form much more harmonious and round where each instrumentalist seems concentrated in the desire to create a crafty meditative viewpoint. This is a work that lives on the impulses of the musicians but also on their ability to hold back those impulses in favour of writing that’s sometimes delicate and escaping to where wide spaces can contribute to the creatiion of an evocative and oniriche atmosphere without however ever diminishing a good dose of uncovered nervousness. Agitated reveals itself to be the central nucleus of the work with its structure run through, improbably, by the winds and the percussion and stretched strings, and again pauses and divisions in which discords are revealed to exist in order then to be abandoned, in a vision that, as much as it owes to the past seems also to be projected towards the future, but without the slightest pretention. The piece concludes with Medicated that contrasts with the rest but perhaps precisely in virtue of its difference it seems to be perfectly assigned to close this work in the appropriate manner. Cold without doubt, but necessary to restabilize, after the smoothness of the previous movements, the sacred germ of doubt. The final that loses itself in silence leaves us in possession of a work of remarkable beauty to add to the list of things received. 3½ stars —   Kathodik

Christian Carey     That said, The Relatives is generally more conventional-sounding than the flights of fancy on Song Songs Song, Parker’s collaboration with experimental guitarist Scott Fields. The CD starts off innocently enough. The Parker-penned “LK 92” pits a low-register, loping, minimal groove against swinging jazz-inflected melodies; the language wouldn’t be out of place on a Metheny or Frisell release. By the album’s second track, the Fields composition “Untitled, 1968, Bing Cherry Juice, KY Jelly, Ketchup on Vellum,” we are off to the races! The piece is a thirteen and a half minute assemblage of various avant-garde trademarks — feedback, atonal soloing, pointillist textures — brought together with a degree of whimsy and improvisatory character. Parker and Fields have a certain chemistry; they manage to find order within the chaos and the various diverse juxtapositions work, delightfully. Even more cohesive is “Untitled, 2004, Dried Blood on gauze, Elastic Strip,” which has a considerably appealing misterioso character; if Webern wrote for two electric guitars, this might be the result! —   Signal to Noise



     Fields adopts an unplugged approach, playing nylon-string classical guitar; it is fascinating to hear him, stripped of amplification, effects, and feedback, improvising strictly in the pitch-rhythm domain. One part Stockhausen post-modern chamber music and one part ethnomusicological exploration, Christangelfox is a haunting, sonically beguiling work. —    Signal to Noise

Russell Carlson      Guitarist Jeff Parker teams with an electric-guitar-equipped Fields for a series of duets on Song Songs Song (Delmark), and, not surprisingly, the results are just as free as Christangelfox — and just as boring. The album opens and closes with pieces by Parker; sandwiched in between are four “Untitled” pieces by Fields where the pair contrast dirty and clean tones (“Untitled, 1968”), share a wealth of dissonant harmonies (“Untitled, 2004”) and spend many minutes trading complicated phrases reminiscent of Parker’s work in the math-rock group Tortoise. The incessant exploration produces not a single memorable moment. Why doesn’t Jeff Parker ditch arty pretension and spend more time honing the group sound of a record like “The Relatives”? —   Jazz Times



    All three players on guitarist Scott Fields’ Christangelfox are credited as percussionists, clinking and tinkling various instruments that aren’t listed in the notes but are probably akin to anything shiny on the shelves at any Williams-Sonoma. As the clattering, nonenchanting and ceaseless din of the rhythmless percussion hangs in the background, Fields noodles in minor modes on a nylon-string guitar, Guillermo Gregorio drones eerily or chirps curtly on clarinet and the usually excellent cellist Matt Turner bows wilted lines in accompaniment, sounding utterly uninspired. It’s an hour-long stab at creating a stark, abstract landscape that fails because the musicians hardly sound engaged and rely too heavily on the tiresome free-jazz gambit of answering one non-sequitur squawk with another. Christangelfox ends up a waste of time for all concerned. —    Jazz Times



    On a dark day last year I had the displeasure to review two recordings that featured guitarist Scott Fields as leader or co-leader. Those leaden releases, which I called “boring” and “just as boring,” not to mention “a compete waste of time,” could not have prepared me for Fields’ brilliant new two-CD set 15=15 Plunderplunderphonics. With restraint I would never expect from Fields, this well executed set is a two-hour-long romp that is almost as kickass as a real, live Batmobile. It could make a Massachusetts liberal whistle Dixie.

On 15=15 Plunderplunderphonics Fields chose tunes rife with melody, tunes which are perfect lines for this exercise in harmonizing with like timbres. Each track is enjoyable. Though his pen still drips ink left over from his days as a pretentious New Music-head in the 90s, Fields’ mind-bending melodies are just the sort of complement needed to create an album that never bores and begs for repeated spins.

15=15 Plunderplunderphonics is rich with references to other works and other cultures. You can hear hints of literally hundreds of familiar riffs. The ensemble’s nutso version of “Michelle” is maybe one of the best Beatles-gone-jazz treatments yet. Later Fields showcases an impeccable sense of time and lets pretty, curly-cue licks blossom in a medley that combines Jerome Kern’s “Yesterdays” with Paul McCartney’s “Yesterday.” And not content to hop on the klezmer bandwagon, Fields directs the album into deeper, darker, less trustworthy corners of the Jewish folk tradition. The tunes on 15=15 Plunderplunderphonics yearn and cry “Oye Vey,” imparting a feeling of spiritual insatiability that sounds and feels very, very Jewish, almost sneakily so.

As a guitarist, Fields flexes his virtuoso chops on 15=15 Plunderplunderphonics, revealing a middle ground between the bop lines of Joe Pass and Django Reinhardt’s Euro-flavored gypsy voodoo. His skills will send young guitarists to the woodshed and cause older ones to consider hanging up the ax forever—Fields is that frustratingly great. The way he can daisy chain quirkily voiced chords and ascend toward ecstasy only to climb back down on a simple, quarter-note run never gets old, even though he does it over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. Guitarheads especially will drool over this one, as he catches up to strike a slightly muted chord as if to say “gotcha,daddy-o” and then sets off again to hunt down his next shivering victim. I’ll be damned if he isn’t hiding a third hand inside one of his suit sleeves. An extended solo during “Tea for Two” that serves as a summary of his style, with dazzling triplet waterfalls, chunk-a-chunk chord vamps and arpeggiations that suggest an extra few fingers on his right hand and perhaps a few more on that hidden third-hand.

The sixth string on the Gibson Scott Fields Signature SF-336 that Fields plays during this set never booms, just as the highs notes never sound too bright. The guitar’s glowing tone—the Gibson SF-336 guitar is the oh-so-rare archtop that guitaraholics dream of just seeing, let alone playing—comes in a tightly contained space that complements Fields’ control. That sustaining, clear-as-rural air SF-336—it’s a shame there aren’t more of those out there to wax records with—will sooth the souls of the hopelessly guitarded, but it should ring gorgeous to anyone’s ears.

Working up a sweat to 15=15 Plunderplunderphonics would be a troublous task. Although the ensemble does offer a decent share of lively grooves, the record exists as more of an introspective love album, lilting and hopeful in spots, agonizingly woeful in others. Rather, playing the role of an urban griot, Fields tries to hip us to the history of jazz. 15=15 Plunderplunderphonics is a storyteller’s work. Yet, the music burns, even if as an ember rather than a blast furnace. If they can capture this kind of energy in the studio, then I’m sure they can produce it before an audience, which means that a night when the Scott Fields Ensemble’s name is on the marquee would be a night well spent. —     Jazz Times

Marc Chénard     There are some musicians who stand out from the crowd, and guitarist Scott Fields certainly qualifies. Not that his music is overtly provocative or extreme, but there is an unquestionable singularity to his vision, one more readily identifiable as contemporary music rather than jazz or free-form improv. A case in point is this single, flowing, fifty-nine minute piece performed by him, on acoustic guitar, Matt Turner on cello and Guillermo Gregorio, playing only straight b-flat clarinet. More than that, all musicians play percussion, striking what seem to be metal plates or tubing in ways reminiscent of Balinese gamelan ensembles (which the leader himself alludes to in his insightful notes). In doing so, one may well be reminded of John Cage’s translation of Far Eastern musics into the contemporary classical vernacular; there’s an underlying reflective, meditative quality to the work, which is spiked by the clattering percussion passages. While the bulk of the performance is improvised, written passage surface throughout, like signposts along the way of a mysterious journey in time, space and tone color. Accordingly these are never bright and bold, but subdued and dark, yet no less intense, like the deep ultramarine hue that adorns the cover. —    Coda Magazine

Troy Collins     The works of Samuel Beckett have been a recurrent source of inspiration for guitarist Scott Fields. Samuel is Fields’ second effort at conveying the master’s prose through pure sound, following Beckett (Clean Feed, 2007). Transposing the original text of Beckett’s plays into precise pitches, chords and time signatures, Fields transforms Beckett’s wordplay into melodies and harmonies that share more than a passing resemblance to jazz. Despite their cerebral origins and abstruse character, the ensuing works are in fact fairly accessible.

Eschewing pure free improvisation in favor of advanced compositional structures, Fields has long been an advocate of composer Stephen Dembski’s post-serial harmonic system, which uses multiple tone rows to construct non-tonal scales. The subtle dissonances, odd intervals and angular melodies of Fields’ writing provide him and his sidemen with a bevy of timbre and pitch choices, lending their improvisations an oblique, enthralling character.

Joined by tenor saxophonist Matthias Schubert, cellist Scott Roller and percussionist John Hollenbeck, Fields and company extrapolate three of Beckett’s emotionally claustrophobic plays into evocative sound portraits. Fields’ abstract compositions seamlessly fuse elaborate counterpoint, odd time signatures and unorthodox arrangements with sections of controlled group interplay, blurring the line between the written and the improvised.

Encapsulating a range of emotions, the episodic “Not I” careens with fervid angularity and bustling agitation while “Ghost Trio” ebbs with cinematic intrigue. Mirroring the play, “Not I” is structured around a series of repeated motifs, allowing each musician a chance to solo, with particular attention paid to Schubert, who leads the piece with an array of effusive, histrionic variations. Although “Ghost Trio” was originally coined in honor of Beethoven’s Fifth Piano Trio, Fields avoids the obvious, setting the piece as a languid jazz ballad with noir overtones, showcasing the quartet’s introspective side with a string of spare, bluesy meditations. “Eh Joe” is the album’s conceptual centerpiece, progressively building from hushed pointillism to a strident, rock-inflected unison theme, emulating the original teleplay’s escalating inner drama.

In league with Beckett, and earlier still, Mamet (Delmark, 2001), Samuel is another winning transposition of the written word into instrumental sonorities. Buoyed by fervid group interplay and compelling lyrical invention, these harmonically audacious and challenging compositions offer a wealth of ideas, much like the work of their dedicatee. —   All About Jazz



    While the sardonic album title alludes to a session fraught with rancorous despair, guitarist Scott Fields’ Bitter Love Songs is, perhaps ironically, one of his most accessible efforts. Born in Chicago, but now based in Cologne, Germany, Fields recorded this date in his new home town with German bassist Sebastian Gramss and Portuguese drummer João Lobo. An iconoclast who favors unusual instrumental combinations, this is his first guitar trio recording since Mamet (Delmark, 2001), with bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Michael Zerang.

In the scathing liner notes Fields explains that the unsettled themes, fitful rhythms and grating dissonances elicited by the trio are intended to invoke the nerve-wracking nausea that accompanies the impending dissolution of romance. While all of these traits are present, they are often fairly subtle; in contrast to his exotic conceptual projects, this loose trio session is actually somewhat conventional.

With Fields as the principle soloist, Gramss and Lobo follow the guitarist’s lead, providing stirring rhythmic accompaniment that vacillates in tempo from casual to frantic. The majority of the tunes saunter at a buoyant mid-tempo clip with periods of intermittent turbulence. Occasionally reaching a fevered pitch, but never boiling over, the trio generates a more agreeable mood than one would expect from such song titles as “My Love Is Love, Your Love Is Hate” and “Your Parents Must Be Just Ecstatic Now.” Only “I Was Good Enough for You Until Your Friends Butted In” breaks form with a languorous abstract blues.

A proponent of structured improvisation based on tone row manipulation, Fields conveys his enigmatic statements with focused intensity. He fires rapid salvoes of knotty linear cadences at regular staccato intervals from his clean-toned hollow body. At his most feverish, he conjures blistering chromatic note clusters as he scuttles across his fretboard. Together, Gramss’ elastic walking bass patterns, Lobo’s shuffling trap set ruminations and Fields’ thorny commentary coil into a kaleidoscopic mosaic of expressionistic interplay.

Despite the derisive title, Bitter Love Songs is a compelling example of modern jazz guitar improvisation supported by an empathetic rhythm section. For aficionados of unfettered guitar traditions, this is essential listening. —   All About Jazz



    Quite possibly one of the most adventurous records yet to emerge from the highly respected jazz and blues label, Delmark, Song Songs Song pushes the limits of what can easily be considered traditional jazz improvisation. Jazz guitarists Jeff Parker and Scott Fields play with and against each other in a studio session that will certainly be remembered for its risk taking elements. Guitarist Jeff Parker, known for his work with numerous projects including Tortoise, Isotope 217, The Chicago Underground pairs up with Scott Fields, a free jazz guitarist and composer who has hovered around the avant garde jazz scene since the late 1960’s. These two play a sequence of pieces that run from the melodic to the downright dissonant. Book ended by Parker’s more delicate pastoral pieces, the bulk of the record finds the two guitarists in stop and go pointillistic free debate. Volume pedal swells, scraped strings and distorted chromatic runs all fly by as the guitarists play an endless game of cat and mouse. Melodic fragments emerge from the pieces, but are just a quickly discarded to explore more textural territory. Call and response improvisation is the conceptual backbone of this session. One can almost visualize the two sitting side by side copying runs from one another, then abstracting them, before turning them inside out and playing them back again. Not an easy listen for those with pre-conceived notions of what jazz improvisation should sound like, Song Songs Song is a brave release on Delmark’s part and makes for perfect blindfold test material. Play this one for your guitar geek friends and see if they can guess even one of the players. —   Junk Media



    Chicago-based guitarist Scott Fields most successful projects, such as Mamet (Delmark, 2001), and Beckett (Clean Feed, 2007), offer a novel merger of structured improvisation inspired by literary sources, this album included. Recorded in 1997 and previously available only on Fields’ own tiny Geode label, this session sat dormant for ten years before this Clean Feed reissue.

Dénouement features a unique double ensemble; two electric guitar trios playing in tandem, but rarely in unison. In 1997, Fields’ working trio consisted of bassist Hans Sturm and drummer Hamid Drake. Fellow Midwesterners, bassist Jason Roebke and drummer Michael Zerang pilot the second trio with guitarist Jeff Parker. Five years before his solo debut, Like-Coping (Delmark, 2003), Parker demonstrates the lyrical finesse and adventurous risk-taking that has brought him acclaim as part of the new Chicago scene.

Using multiple pitch sets and compound rhythmic figures to create an off-kilter sensibility, Fields creates a complex mosaic of contrapuntal lines and cross-rhythms. Modulating dynamics with nuance and relaxed pacing, the ensemble meanders from austere chamber-esque duets exploring pointillist dialogue to dense collective passages that unfurl knotty tendrils of abstruse commentary fueled by angular, interlocking rhythms. To his credit, these layered compositions feel unforced, belying their structural intricacy.

Intertwining with graceful subtlety, the two trios navigate similar paths without drifting in cacophonous discourse. Drake and Zerang’s elastic rhythms skirt between skittering harmonic accents and fulminating energy, while Roebke and Sturm occasionally alternate techniques, bowing fractured double stops and sonorous arco glisses or plucking metered pizzicato.

Fields and Parker offer a kaleidoscopic array of scintillating tonal colors and subtle electronic textures. Less EFX dependent than many electric guitarists, they rely on sensitivity of touch and phrasing for their sound, rather than twiddling knobs on stomp boxes. Employing a variety of approaches, from pensive, linear patterns to blistering fretwork exuding jittery bursts of atonality, they complement and contrast each other with remarkable restraint and a seething undercurrent of roiling energy.

Fields’ darkly humorous song titles allude to the uncertain resolutions of morose, convoluted narratives, much like his own compositions. Intricate, but not overly esoteric, Dénouement is a welcome reissue and a high water mark in Fields’ varied discography. —    All About Jazz

Maurizio Comandini      I percorsi dei due chitarristi d’avanguardia Elliott Sharp e Scott Fields sono piuttosto differenti, anche se indubbiamente si possono trovare alcuni punti in comune. Sharp è una delle espressioni più importanti e coerenti della scena downtown newyorkese e mette assieme progetti di amplissimo spettro che lo vedono passare dal blues arcaico rivisitato alla sperimentazione più radicale. Scott Fields è meno noto ma è una delle risorse più importanti della scena di Chicago, anche se da molti anni preferisce rimanere piuttosto defilato.

In questa occasione hanno scelto di chiudersi in una stanza, accendere i registratori, guardarsi negli occhi, senza prendere particolari accordi. Ognuno ha messo a disposizione una serie di composizioni spesso basate su sistemi di notazione inusuali, che pescano dalla grafica e dalla poesia. Poi hanno tirato fuori le chitarre acustiche e hanno dato il via all’esplorazione dei rispettivi mondi, cercando di compenetrarli, di rivoltarli, di scardinarli. Senza rispetto e senza paura.

In situazioni come questa la consuetudine ad affrontare l’ignoto senza mai perdersi d’animo è il necessario grimaldello che può aprire tutte le porte e i due chitarristi si muovono con il giusto mix di creatività, capacità di ascoltare e sensibilità nel rispondere alle sollecitazioni. E il risultato è di ottimo livello, un vero e proprio manifesto per l’improvvisazione a due, indipendentemente dallo strumento utilizzato. Allo stesso tempo l’ascoltatore smaliziato riesce a ricreare nella propria mente una mappa piuttosto precisa per identificare gli scenari legati alle possibilità di forzatura timbrica delle chitarre acustiche, come non mai capaci di diventare fonti di ritmo, di suoni, di brandelli tematici che compaiono qua e là come per magia. 3.5 stelle —    All About Jazz, Italy



     Il primo brano di questo album proposto da un duo di chitarristi radicali e visionari potrebbe trarre in inganno: il clima è molto quieto, minimalista, quasi da cantilena per un asilo nido progressivo della bassa padana. Ma poi non mancano gli sconquassi, le deflorazioni della materia sonora, le improvvise accelerazioni che favoriscono le escursioni fuori dal sentiero conosciuto. Perchè questi due temerari non ne vogliono proprio sapere di mantenere la strada conosciuta. No. Loro vogliono proprio smarrirsi nel suono e quindi non danno retta ai proverbi e alle consuetudini e vanno a cercarsi guai nei fuori pista, nei crinali dove la roccia affiora fra la neve e le tracce di sangue rosseggiano nel bianco abbacinante e sovraesposto.

Jeff Parker lascia da parte l’abituale arsenale di elettronica e di vecchi synth analogici che è solito abbinare alla chitarra nei suoi mille progetti che lo trascinano dai Tortoise al Chicago Underground Trio e Quartet, dagli Isotope 217 al gruppo di Ted Sirota e così via. Scott Fields approfitta dell’occasione per utilizzare una nuova chitarra che la Gibson ha deciso di produrre nella sua serie Signature, per l’appunto con il coinvolgimento, in sede di design e scelte costruttive, del cinquantacinquenne chitarrista di Chicago, ormai emigrato a Colonia. Una interessante variazione della classica ES336 che diventa SF336, dove SF sta ovviamente per Scott Fields.

I due chitarristi avevano già collaborato assieme nel disco Denoument del 1999, ma in quel caso il gruppo era un doppio trio con l’aggiunta delle batterie di Hamid Drake e Michael Zerang e dei bassi di Jason Roebke e Hans Sturm. Qui invece li troviamo in perfetta solitudine, faccia a faccia nella classica situazione del duo di chitarre che ne esalta le doti di improvvisatori attenti e allo stesso tempo senza inibizioni, pronti a far scoppiare le energie nascoste tra le corde delle loro chitarre e le valvole dei loro amplificatori, non disdegnando l’utilizzo di arnesi ‘esterni’, come ben dimostra la foto di copertina che vede Fields impegnato a titillare la sua SF336 con un archetto da violino. Le sei composizioni presentate sono originali. Parker firma la prima e ultima, pi brevi e minimaliste, mentre le altre quattro arrivano da Fields e sono ben più lunghe, elaborate e strutturate, almeno nelle modalità esecutive dell'improvvisazione.

La musica borbotta, scatarra, impallidisce, trattiene il fiato, si incunea in strane situazioni, ma poi viene fuori a pieno respiro, coi polmoni che soffiano via i grumi e riprendono a pompare ossigeno nel sistema. Il gap generazionale non si avverte più di tanto, anche se la leadership sembra più nel versante di Fields e in qualche modo Jeff Parker sembra voler pagare una sorta di debito verso il chitarrista della generazione precedente alla sua. Un dialogo fra due mondi che si intersecano e si sommano, in una libera esternazione che non si fa mancare sottigliezze e aree di meditazione ma che per la maggior parte del tempo brucia come una sventagliata di vetriolo. Copritevi bene! 3.5 stelle —    All About Jazz, Italy



     La Delmark Records di Chicago, diretta con solide intenzioni dal veterano Bob Koester, da una parte continua a tenere desta la tradizione, sia in campo jazzistico che nei territori del blues di Chicago, e dall'altra infila preziose perle alla collana dell'avanguardia.

Il lavoro in trio qui presentato appartiene certamente a quest'ultimo filone.

Scott Fields un valente chitarrista che si inserisce nella direzione gi intrapresa da Joe Morris e da altri chitarristi poco interessati sia al filone del jazz-rock e della fusion, sia alla corrente centrale della chitarra jazz ben rappresentata da Jim Hall e dai suoi epigoni.

Le cinque lunghe composizioni contenute in questo bel CD sono state tutte composte da Scott Fields e presentano situazioni che oscillano fra l'avanguardia pi radicale e momenti pi rilassati dove la destrutturazione ritmica e tonale di base si stemperano e si acquietano. I titoli dei brani sono tutti presi da lavori del grande sceneggiatore americano David Mamet, autore di lavori sia per il teatro che per cinema e TV.

L'approccio di Fields decisamente inusuale. Non si limita a trarre una ispirazione generica dai lavori teatrali di Mamet ma li utilizza come canovaccio tematico per le cinque composizioni. Prende alcune parti dalle sceneggiature e le viviseziona affidando per esempio la parte della voce femminile alla chitarra e quella della voce maschile al basso di Michael Formanek. Le frasi melodiche delle composizioni cercano di seguire il dettato ritmico delle battute scritte che ovviamente sono solo evocate, essendo il disco completamente strumentale.

I testi di David Mamet sono comunque allegati da Scott Fields agli spartiti, in modo che i musicisti siano consapevoli dello scenario che il leader intende evocare. L'approccio di Fields alla chitarra ricorda molto quello di Bern Nix, eccellente chitarrista, alla corte di Ornette Coleman per alcuni anni, e ora attivo, anche se piuttosto defilato, sulla scena downtown newyorkese. Un approccio che ci piace pi definire come una variante tonale di un universo parallelo piuttosto che come atonale. Diciamo che la tonalit a cui fanno riferimento questi musicisti non la stessa tonalit sulla quale si basa la musica occidentale di stampo tradizionale.

Ne scaturiscono melodie stralunate, a volte aspre ma spesso colme di fascino e di una loro cantabilit interiore, non priva di ingenuit . L'apporto dei due ritmi di altissimo livello e il trio si muove organicamente senza farsi condizionare dalle regole e dai pregiudizi. Ovviamente i tre mantengono campo aperto anche alle situazioni che presentano momenti decisamente sperimentali, quando i suoni chiamati ingiustamente rumori si affacciano curiosamente e menano la danza per lunghi tratti e il batterista Michael Zerang si trova a percuotere di tutto.

Una menzione particolare va alla bellissima foto di Whitney Bradshaw che campeggia in copertina e che rende molto bene le atmosfere evocate dalla musica contenuta nel disco. 4 stelle —    All About Jazz, Italy



     Scott Fields, valente chitarrista d'avanguardia americano alle soglie dei cinquant'anni, nelle note di copertina di questo eccellente CD, coglie l'occasione per raccontarci, con grande senso dello humor e dell'understatement, alcuni dettagli della sua tormentata vita di studente, negli anni sessanta, a Chicago.

Non proprio uno studente modello, si trovò a dover passare dalle mani di un terapeuta che, dopo alcune sedute, scoprì che i problemi dello studente bricconcello derivavano da un difetto alla vista. Dopo tantissimi anni, finalmente una recente operazione agli occhi con la tecnica della laser terapia parrebbe avere posto definitivamente rimedio a questo difetto congenito e ha dato a Fields il pretesto per giocare con le permutazioni linguistiche che si possono applicare alle due parole “this” (questo) e “that” (quello) per poi formare i titoli degli otto movimenti che compongono questa sorta di suite che cavalca con grande intensità e passione le strade dell'improvvisazione e della instant composition.

Il chitarrista, nato a Chicago nel 1952 e da oltre vent'anni residente nel Wisconsin, ha deciso di chiamare tutte le sue formazioni, siano esse composte da un paio di elementi o decisamente allargate, come nel caso del recente 96 Gestures [per leggerne la recensione clicca qui], con il nome “Ensemble”, un omaggio dichiarato all'Art Ensemble of Chicago, gruppo che gli ha fornito parecchio materiale su cui riflettere negli anni formativi della sua giovinezza, appassionatamente vissuti sotto l'egida dell'AACM. In questo caso ci troviamo di fronte ad un trio, come in occasione dell'eccellente Mamet [per leggerne la recensione clicca qui] uscito alcuni mesi fa per la Delmark Records. Anziché avere basso e batteria, come in quel caso, abbiamo violoncello e percussioni, affidate rispettivamente a Peggy Lee e a Dylan Van der Schyff, due canadesi emergenti, marito e moglie nella vita e ottima coppia anche da un punto di vista artistico.

I tre si integrano a meraviglia e la lunga suite muove con grande intensità da situazioni decisamente minimali, con i suoni che si rincorrono sussurrando dolcemente, a momenti di grande energia che si scatena come se le forze della natura avessero deciso di innestarsi magicamente fra le corde e le pelli degli strumenti usati in queste registrazioni. Le dinamiche sono dilatate in maniera splendida e la musica respira con grande vigore, mostrando scenari fortemente evocativi, paesaggi sui generis, accostamenti di colori del tutto inconsueti.

Come già in 96 Gestures il percussionista Van der Schyff si propone come uno dei più interessanti giovani batteristi in giro, assolutamente attento a raccogliere tutte le possibilità lanciate dagli altri strumenti per controbattere con soluzioni sempre originali, sia dal punto di vista della frammentazione ritmica che dal punto di vista delle scelte timbriche, che riescono sempre a spiazzare l'ascoltatore e probabilmente anche i partner.

La violoncellista Peggy Lee è sempre pronta a raccogliere la sfida delle intuizioni armonico-ritmiche del chitarrista, tessendo corpose fasce sonore che prendono l'abbrivio da fondali sempre dinamici per giungere a momenti in cui il proscenio è conquistato con decisione. La dote principale di Scott Fields è quella di riuscire a stare a cavallo dell'improvvisazione con grande intelligenza e capacità di interazione con i suoi partner. A differenza di altri musicisti, non ha paura di entrare ed uscire da situazioni anche vagamente tonali, piccoli frammenti melodici che appaiono qua e là, inconsueti e improvvisi, del tutto anomali, ma profumati e piacevolmente delicati, piccole anse entro le quali riprendere il fiato e ricomporsi, in questo tormentato viaggio dentro una suite piena di situazioni in cui il respiro rimane quasi sempre sospeso e incantato. 5 stelle —    All About Jazz, Italy



     Le tre performance contenute negli altrettanti CD che compongono questo cofanetto ci offrono ben duecento minuti di musica profondamente improvvisata, ma guidata da regole ben precise con le quali i musicisti sono sempre tenuti a confrontarsi. Il leader il chitarrista di Chicago Scott Fields, qui alla testa di un ensemble composto da dodici eccellenti musicisti e da un conduttore chiamato ad interagire con le strutture compositive e a coinvolgere in qualche modo nell'improvvisazione anche il proprio ruolo.

Il contesto quello di un free jazz molto moderno, illuminato da ottimi interpreti e innervato da fantasiose regole strutturali che consentono alla musica di stare aggrappata ad una efficace spina dorsale che pare sempre sul punto di spezzarsi ma che in realt dimostra la propria capacit vitale di rigenerarsi organicamente ad ogni scossone e ad ogni angolo imprevedibilmente complicato.

Sono tre diverse variazioni di un progetto compositivo basato su 96 “gestures” (frammenti cinematici di musica scritta) che il conduttore e i musicisti sono liberi di ricomporre in mille modi, con l'intento di creare un puzzle informale in cui i pezzi sembrano magicamente aderire sempre l'uno all'altro, mostrando combinazioni di colori e di forme mai ascoltate in precedenza.

Il tutto si dipana come una sequenza di libere improvvisazioni guidate che si propongono come un'autorevole proposta di studio e di interpretazione, sia da parte dei musicisti che da parte degli ascoltatori. La presenza di veterani dell'avanguardia come Joseph Jarman e Myra Melford, del cornettista Rob Mazurek (noto a Chicago per i suoi lavori trasversali coi Tortoise, gli Isotope 217 e la saga del Chicago Underground Duo divenuto Trio e poi Quartet, senza dimenticare la versione come Orchestra), degli emergenti Fran ois Houle e Dylan Van Der Schyff, molto attivi in quel di Vancouver, e degli altri ottimi interpreti guidati dal conduttore Stephen Dembski, una chiara indicazione di come il leader Scott Fields abbia accuratamente scelto gli interpreti di questo viaggio all'interno di inconsuete strutture, per poter garantire un costante flusso di idee che sono assolutamente indispensabili per mantenere sempre la tensione creativa su livelli ottimali.

Scott Fields, nato a Chicago il 30 settembre del 1952, residente nel Wisconsin dal 1976, un chitarrista che si distinto sin dagli anni settanta nei gruppi pi sperimentali che si facevano notare nell'eccitante clima creatosi a seguito della forte azione svolta a Chicago dall'AACM.

Scomparso in qualche modo dalla scena musicale alla fine degli anni settanta, ritornato fuori recentemente con progetti molto interessanti e con l'eccellente Mamet da poco uscito per la Delmark [per leggerne la recensione clicca qui], dove si esibisce in trio con grande maturit e intelligenza. Anche in questo progetto dimostra di essere un musicista concettualmente sofisticato e con forti doti di leadership. Questa esperienza di ensemble allargato si configura come una mappa territoriale di un luogo della mente difeso da una immaginaria linea Maginot che l'ascoltatore deve decisamente violare per entrare in un mondo governato da regole mutevoli che si prendono il compito di dirigere lo scorrere dei suoni che fluiscono da ogni lato e che si dirigono da ogni parte. Portatevi una bussola...4 stelle —    All About Jazz, Italy



     I percorsi dei due chitarristi d’avanguardia Elliott Sharp e Scott Fields sono piuttosto differenti, anche se indubbiamente si possono trovare alcuni punti in comune. Sharp è una delle espressioni più importanti e coerenti della scena downtown newyorkese e mette assieme progetti di amplissimo spettro che lo vedono passare dal blues arcaico rivisitato alla sperimentazione più radicale. Scott Fields è meno noto ma è una delle risorse più importanti della scena di Chicago, anche se da molti anni preferisce rimanere piuttosto defilato.

In questa occasione hanno scelto di chiudersi in una stanza, accendere i registratori, guardarsi negli occhi, senza prendere particolari accordi. Ognuno ha messo a disposizione una serie di composizioni spesso basate su sistemi di notazione inusuali, che pescano dalla grafica e dalla poesia. Poi hanno tirato fuori le chitarre acustiche e hanno dato il via all’esplorazione dei rispettivi mondi, cercando di compenetrarli, di rivoltarli, di scardinarli. Senza rispetto e senza paura.

In situazioni come questa la consuetudine ad affrontare l’ignoto senza mai perdersi d’animo è il necessario grimaldello che può aprire tutte le porte e i due chitarristi si muovono con il giusto mix di creatività, capacità di ascoltare e sensibilità nel rispondere alle sollecitazioni. E il risultato è di ottimo livello, un vero e proprio manifesto per l’improvvisazione a due, indipendentemente dallo strumento utilizzato. Allo stesso tempo l’ascoltatore smaliziato riesce a ricreare nella propria mente una mappa piuttosto precisa per identificare gli scenari legati alle possibilità di forzatura timbrica delle chitarre acustiche, come non mai capaci di diventare fonti di ritmo, di suoni, di brandelli tematici che compaiono qua e là come per magia. —    All About Jazz, Italy



     Scott Fields lascia da parte la chitarra e si concentra nella conduzione di questo ampio ensemble di musicisti, principalmente tedeschi, alle prese con alcune sue composizioni. La musica è stata registrata dal vivo in un piccolo locale di Colonia, il 25 gennaio del 2009.

Il primo brano è dedicato ad un compositore di musica elettronica giapponese (Masami Akita noto come Merzbow) mentre gli altri quattro brani sono una sorta di suite destinata a gruppi di improvvisazione da camera, alla quale Fields sta lavorando da tempo.

La chiave di questa interpretazione va individuata nella decisione di cercare di lavorare nel regime delle dinamiche basse, anche per contrastare una delle caratteristiche fondamentali del lavoro del musicista giapponese omaggiato. Quest’ultimo infatti è ben noto per l’utilizzo di suoni/rumori ad altissimo volume. Allo stesso tempo un refuso sulle locandine tedesche (Quiet Large Ensemble invece che Quite Large Ensemble) ha fatto propendere per una scelta di volumi contenuti anche per i quattro movimenti di OZZO.

Contrasti e casualità: due componenti che bisogna saper ben manipolare per uscirne senza le ossa rotte. Un esperto navigatore dell’improvvisazione come Scott Fields lo fa ovviamente senza problemi, ben coadiuvato da un eccellente gruppo di musicisti fra i quali spiccano il saxofonista Frank Gratkowski e l’esperto bassista Achim Tang. —    All About Jazz, Italy

Mark Corroto     The guitarist Scott Fields provides a tribute to Samuel Beckett with a dense and challenging bit of chamber jazz or maybe modern classical/free music that he describes as “post-free jazz” and “exploratory music.” His concept of tightly packed compositions with noisy breaches of the oft times violent surface tempts the outer reaches of sound. Perfectly matched by the overtly quirky drummer, John Hollenbeck, these odd structures ask many musical questions, and sometimes provide answers. —   All About Jazz



     Applying laser to Minaret Minuets (or playing the download), from electric guitarist Scott Fields and tenor saxophonist Matthias Schubert, recalls the early days of mono-into-stereo recordings. Back then you might hear the saxophonist coming from just one speaker. Where you sat in relation to your hi-fi set up was paramount. By unplugging one channel you would be able to create your own solo session. With Fields and Schubert, both strong soloists, you might be tempted to do the same, but, alas, modern engineers blend the channels for balanced listening.

Fields, an American free jazz player from 1960s’ Chicago, has transformed into a complex thinker and organizer of structured and intricate group interactions and improvisations. He moved to Germany a few years back and began working in Schubert’s jazz orchestra. The two have also collaborated on Fields’ ensemble recording, Beckett (Clean Feed, 2007), with John Hollenbeck and Scott Roller.

What stands out here is the multiple simple gestures made by each musician. Be it a saxophone’s flutter and breath or a guitar’s string of notes, each produces sounds that seem to shimmer or glow before dwindling away. The pair apply more space than might be expected. Is it in deference to the other? Perhaps. Maybe that is why the ear is drawn to a single speaker. Focusing on just one player would cause you to ignore the superb interaction of forces here. —   All About Jazz

François Couture      Samuel is the follow-up to the Scott Fields Ensemble’s 2007 release Beckett on the Clean Feed label. Both albums feature Scott Fields’ compositions based on plays by Samuel Beckett. Not “inspired by,” but “based on”; Fields derives his scores (pitches, chords, rhythms, etc.) from the author’s words and narrative devices. At least, that is what the liner notes state. Clearly, Fields is not using these processes as the be-all and end-all of his music, which transcends such preparations. The listener hears little of that in the music itself and, if he or she chooses to bypass the liner notes, will not pick up on it. Fascinating as it may be, these processes don’t get in the way of what turns out to be three highly complex compositions of avant-garde jazz, for lack of a better term. The composed aspect of the music is obvious, even though free improvisation plays a key part in the proceedings: unisons and stop-go cues abound, harmonic material is developed much too subtly and delicately to not have been planned ahead, heads pop up in unlikely places. We are somewhere between the large-scale compositions of U.K. bassist Simon H. Fell (mostly his Compilation series) and John Zorn’s contemporary classical works. “Ghost Trio” has a slightly jazzier feel while “Eh Joe” is a bit more abstract at first, but all three pieces (the other one is titled “Not I”) have one foot in free jazz, the other in non-idiomatic improvisation, and a third one (oh, it’s unique enough to have grown a third foot) in a still little-charted territory of very serious non-classical modern composition — akin to Fred Frith or Jean Derome’s most ambitious works. Tenor saxophonist Matthias Schubert often assumes the lead melody, with Fields counterpointing on the electric guitar (his interventions sound random at first, but close listening quickly reveals an inner logic). Scott Roller shifts back and forth between a bassist’s role and a soloist’s role. Drummer John Hollenbeck is mostly playing in free improvisation mode, with short episodes of swing, and a noticeable rock-out passage toward the end of “Eh Joe” where he gets to use the kind of chops his Claudia Quintet is based on. Samuel is not an easy record, but the level of musicianship, composition, and ensemble playing commands respect, admiration, and an award. It is also quite addictive, as each listen reveals new details of the work’s architecture. 4½ stars —    All Music Guide



    First of all, This That is an unlikely release for the San Diego-based avant-garde label Accretions, because Scott Fields has no ties with the “Trummerflora Collective.” That being said, label director Marcos Fernandes took a wise decision to release this very strong CD. For this studio recording, the Scott Fields Ensemble was a trio, cellist Peggy Lee and drummer Dylan van der Schyff (both from Vancouver, Canada) following the guitarist in a series of structured improvisations. This match-up proves to be particularly successful. Lee and Schyff know each other by heart, their chemistry has reached a commanding level. Moreover, Fields’ loose compositions and penned-down segments are stylistically closely related to the projects they were involved with during the 1990s, from Talking Pictures to François Houle and Tony Wilson’s groups. So This That ends up sounding like a cousin of the Vancouver avant-garde jazz scene. Some of these tracks follow specific contrasts, textures, or structures, while others have written heads. But the compositional work usually remains seamless (except for the obvious tutti lines). Fields is in very good shape. His dislocated melodies find a sympathetic soul in Lee’s lyrical cello playing in “That Isn’t This.” In “This Isn’t That” he throws in an impressive solo. This That may not have a star-studded line-up like Five Frozen Eggs (with Marilyn Crispell and Hamid Drake), but it sure delivers the goods — and if you have never heard the free improv unit of Lee and Schyff, this is your chance. Strongly recommended. —   All Music Guide

Julian Cowley     “My name would be ‘Dog Drexel,’” confides guitarist Scott Fields in his online biography, explaining the title. From the Diary of Dog Drexel comprises four compositions called “Conflicted,” “Pissed,” “Bummed,” and “Agitated.” You might justifiably conclude that Fields has concocted a grungy soundtrack to an imagined life of sleaze. But you’d be wrong, though it’s certainly fraught with tension and brittle attitude. Evolved from the system of generating non-tonal scales Fields has worked with since entering the orbit of composer Stephen Dembski, this harmonically ambivalent music often evokes unease.

Dembski conducts a quintet featuring Fields on electric and nylon-stringed acoustic guitar, Greg Kelley on trumpet, Guillermo Gregorio on alto sax and clarinet, Kyle Bruckmann on oboe and English horn and Carrie Biolo on vibraphone, marimba, crotales, and unpitched percussion. There’s a cut-glass feel to the ensemble: multifaceted, hard-edged, and refractive. Luminous with the shimmer of vibes, they can sour when the reeds clash, defiant when the trumpet asserts itself, or angry and threatening when Fields’s guitar growls and lashes out.

A fifth track, “Medicated,” is credited to all five players plus Gregory Taylor who processed materials from their improvising. Its meltdown of definition into more fundamental ambivalence, volatile temperaments, and even the remnants of Fields’s spiteful soloing, dosed and deliquescing into computer-generated numbness, make for a fitting conclusion. —   The Wire



    Fields has said that his use of the word ‘Ensemble’ pays homage to The Art Ensemble of his native Chicago, rather than being a means to identify a particular group of musicians. The personnel lined up behind the name has varied wildly. Van der Schyff recurs on 96 Gestures but as part of a 12-piece group steered by conductor Stephen Dembski. Among the other members are alto saxophonist Joseph Jarman, pianist Myra Melford, clarinetist François Houle and Rob Mazurek on cornet. The composition is a structure of cued modules giving leads that encourage improvisation. Outcome can vary considerably as these three realizations, each more than an hour long, demonstrate well. Common to all three is a sense of fluency, lightness and mobility, multiple events and constant activity without unwanted snarls or messy collisions. Ostensibly very different to This That, and on a label subsidiary to CRI, which has for many years championed contemporary compositions, 96 Gestures nonetheless shares points of contact in its questioning repetitions and variations, its (more formal) permutatory maneuvers and the sense that no concluding gesture can ever be more than provisional. Fields’s choice of collaborators has been one of his strengths. Here it ensures sensitive playing and accurate reading that align the piece with substantial work by the likes of Butch Morris, Anthony Braxton, and John Zorn seeking ways to sustain and extend creative relationships between composed forms and alert improvising. —    The Wire



    Scott Fields is an electric guitarist who can go for the jugular while shouldering same fairly hefty conceptual baggage. His squally eruptions on This That suggest an intelligent and ironic man giving vent to seething anger and frustration. But this trio recording in the sympathetic company of cellist Peggy Lee and drummer Dylan van der Schyff is by no means all spleen. Much of the album has a probing feel, quietly teasing apart modest phrases and motifs that are firmly established at the start then continuously revised and elaborated. The three players circle around the core material kneading and tugging until it has stretched into a piece that can be called “This is This,” “That is This,” or “That is That.” The reversible titles accurately reflect music that seems conclusive but is primed to unravel in order to begin again. Despite the assertive tone, nothing is ever definitively stated because it can always be said otherwise, as in all successful improvising. —    The Wire



    Each performer preserves a distinct identity as the music unfolds. The lines frequently converge as a phrase or harmonic configuration is picked up and echoed in the course of another current, but those nodes never arrest the forward motion, or blur the internal contours of the music. It’s a long album, arguable, after the first few listens, a little too long given its evenness, But it is also insidious, spiked with subtle temptations to play it again. —    The Wire

Curt Cuisine      »Blahblahblah« steht auf der Website von Scott Fields als Überschrift zum Thema ausführliche Biografie. Ist einem natürlich gleich sympathisch, wenn sich jemand nicht ganz so wichtig nimmt. Vor allem dann, wenn sich diese Biografie durchaus spannend liest. Vom »Spotter« für Drogendealer (die Kindheit und Jugend in Chicago) über den eher schrillen Einstieg in die Rockmusik (zunächst) bis hin zur Übersiedlung nach Köln, wo Fields mittlerweile eine ziemlich gut gesettelte Figur in der einschlägigen Szene sein dürfte. Renommierte Namen wie Frank Gratkowski oder Carl Ludwig Hübsch tauchen da auf, echte Kapazunder, die sich mit hörbarer Spielfreude in dieses frei und doch nicht frei improvisierende Großensemble unter Dirigent und Komponist Scott Fields einfügen. Worum aber geht es? Einmal mehr um moderne, um improvisierte Kammermusik. In dieser und für diese sucht Fields nach Strukturen (früher regelrecht »besessen«), ohne dabei den Terminus »post-free« überstrapazieren zu wollen. Trotzdem trifft es das ein wenig. Sowohl das Multiple Joyce Orchestra wie auch das Ensemble musizieren frei (ergo atonal, dissonant, mitunter eruptiv) wie auch nach vorgegebenen Strukturen, die aber die Improvisationen maximal harmonisch oder motivisch lenken, keinesfalls konkrete Tonfolgen vorgeben. Fields Stücke können also je nach Aufführung ziemlich verschieden klingen — wobei davon ausgegangen werden kann, dass es keine Aufführung gibt, bei der alle Musiker plötzlich nur wohlgefällige Harmonien spielen. (Warum eigentlich nicht? Weil das nicht »post-free« wäre?) Hier beißt sich die Konzertkatze letztlich in den improvisierten Schwanz, denn trotz der durchaus elegant und effizient eingeführten Strukturen (das Ensemble wird etwa durch den Einsatz bzw. das Wechselspiel zweier E-Gitarren gewissermaßen formatiert) verschütten die genretypischen Disharmoniekaskaden mitunter das fragile Netz des Kompositorischen. Zu einschlägig, zu redundant, zu wenig nach individuellem Ausdruck klingt dieses freie Gewusel, so dass man beim Hören immer wieder von einem disharmonischen … tja … eben … »Blahblahblah« erschlagen wird. Fields selbst versteht seine Kompositionen als »explorativ«, als Entdeckungsreisen für Komponist und Musiker gleichermaßen. Als Hörer muss man entsprechend die Bereitschaft mitbringen, wirklich zu entdecken und nicht bloß Gewohntes wiederzufinden. Das ist nur zu unterschreiben. Leider sind eben viele Hörresultate der frei improvisierten Musik zu einem ebensolchen Gewohnten geworden. Da würde man sich frei nach John Cage anstelle freier Improvisationen lieber frische Improvisationen wünschen. —    Skug

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