Grego Applegate Edwards
Alright, so today its not a matter of rock. The blog never has been and I suppose never will be only that. Today we consider something by an electric guitarist and his ensemble, something in the realm of avant jazz, free jazz if you like that term.
Scott Fields is a player of genuine stature in this realm. And the recording is a well-healed excursion with a top-notch ensemble. The album is named 5 Frozen Eggs (Clean Feed 258).
Scott Fields amassed some signpost-like and/or more fleshed-out compositions for the date to help the ensemble set mood, tone and direction. Then he and the group cut loose with some very free and eloquent improvisations. The results are what one might expect if you know the playersMarilyn Crispell on piano, Hamid Drake, drums, Hans Sturm, acoustic bass, and of course Scott on electric.
The Fields guitar style is pretty (sometimes very) electric and filled with all kinds of melodic twists and turns. You get the feeling listening as he plays that there is no discernible gap between what he thinks musically and what comes out of the instrument. The mind envisions lines of broad harmonic ramification, the hands execute with style and drama. Hes creating lines that sound like they are completely hisbecause they ARE.
The piano improvisations of Ms. Crispell are, as always, extraordinarily creative and impactful. Her playing has a logic to it and flows in unending inspiration, or so it sounds. Hans Sturm churns it up at the bottom with an excellent sound and feel. Hamid Drake comes across as poised, dead-on, yet very free. He swings in his very own way when called upon and he like the others can create much thats inspired in a spontaneous setting. The complete drummer, he is.
So there you have itfour excellent improvisers doing great work interactively and individually, some appropriate compositional frameworks within which that happens, and a guitar stylist who belongs to a category of one, Scott Fields.
Its music that stays essential and vibrant throughout. If I were rich and they were available, Id have these folks play at my birthday party! The next best thing is 5 Frozen Eggs. Happy birthday to everybody with this one! Fields and company create music that celebrates life, freely and smartly. Gapplegate Guitar and Bass Blog
Some music is just not trying to be in your face. Its music that has a somewhat refined sensibility, and it is quite serious about that it sets about doing. That would be nylon guitarist Scott Fields new record in a nutshell. Fugu (Clean Feed), brings Fields together with a chamber improvisation ensemble of Geoff Brady, percussion, John Padden, acoustic bass, Robert Stright, vibes, and Matt Turner on cello. This somewhat unusual instrumentation and the music it plays reminds slightly of the old Chico Hamilton ensembles that had the cello-bass-guitar-drums-winds configuration, but only because this is music of a cooler temperature, dialogic construction and similar instrumentation. It is chamber improvisation of a tonal sort and it does not feature individual pyrotechnical displays. Beyond all that though this is music of today.
There are compositional elements but the group improvisation concept is at the forefront. Its not a head-solo-head sort of structure. Melodic and harmonic motives come in and out in the collective mix. And always there is a feeling of spontaneity and an almost classical dialogue. There are freely phrased passages and also regularly pulsating time segments. All the musicians are interesting and contribute to the total effect, which has the feeling of some friends getting together for what turns out to be a most stimulating conversation.
This is music that needs attentive listening. It is unusual and quite intricate. Oh, and Scott Fields plays some very interesting lines. A good listen.
A real treat, and an excellent idea to make this music available again. Gapplegate Guitar and Bass Blog
I am not overly familiar with either Scott Fields, electric guitarist, or Matthias Schubert, tenorist, but after hearing their duet offering Minaret Minuets (Clean Feed 213) a number of times, I must say that theyve made an impression on me that wont be easily eradicated. A good impression, I mean.
Scott contributes the compositions, all save one, which is by Matthias. In those charts/routines I hear the constructive influence of Anthony Braxton and Roscoe Mitchell, especially in the darting about asymmetrically through register skips and jumps, and the repetition of tone and sound color phrases as both a compositional tact and a means to gradually launch into related improvisational work. There isnt just some sort of imitation; these elements are creatively integrated into the Fields-Schubert duet dynamic. And they are made to springboard the artists into solid avant improvisatory territory where their own personal identities come to the fore. Plus there are other compositional elements that move the music in other directions as well. The point is that the compositional frameworks are strong, memorable, and a great way to structure the freedom of the improvisations.
Both Fields and Schubert have developed sound and style inventiveness on their instruments to a fine point. These are originals, both. Fields, perhaps in part because there are relatively few avant electricians in the guitar realm who successfully develop and sustain identities of their own, has the greater impact on my ears. He plays irregular and unusual phrases with great fluidity, can vary the articulation of attack in many subtle ways, and his melodic-harmonic sensibility is woven into a whole, unified cloth. Schubert shares with Fields a tumble-and-turn rhythmic feel that serves both well. He is adept at coming up with pivotal figures that set things up for a Fields improvisation (and vice versa) and he maintains throughout a sure-footed robust or whispering tenor attack and an extremely fertile variational imagination.
The two together are remarkable in many ways, but especially for me in the way they flow ideas together without strict tempo or even without any tempo whatsoever. Their duets move along in ways that make sense and bring listener appreciation to a high level.
These are without a doubt some of the most interesting and successful sax-guitar avant improvisations I have had the pleasure to hear. I hope the two do more and continue to work together in duet and with other simpatico players. Definitely recommended!
Gapplegate Guitar and Bass Blog
According to the Clean Feed website, Scott Fields wrote Moersbow/OZZO (Clean Feed 236) as two works that could be performed by at least 19 musicians, all of whom could improvise and read music. He recorded both works with a large outfit he calls the Multiple Joyce Orchestra. The CD at hand presents the fruits of that labor.
This is challenging music of an avant sort. It combines textured soundscapes, collective soloing and worked-out sequences that have a post-Braxtonian edginess at times.
No single instrumentalist is meant to dominate the proceedings. Instead a great variety of instrumental combinations come in and out of play more or less continuously.
Its a fascinating, successful, large-scale new music recital where the jazz and open elements combine and create a sonically rich result. It may not be a masterpiece of the new music, but it most certainly makes for a welcome addition to the scattering of existing works of its kind. Well worth a hearing if you follow the latest developments in the improv/new music nexus.
Gapplegate Music Review