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Brian Olewnick     For this recording, composer Scott Fields assembled a core group from the cream of Chicago’s improvising scene (with the importation of trumpet ringer Greg Kelley from Boston) to have them investigate his scores that seek to blur the line between written and improvised music. Generally, those lines aren’t too tough to discern, his composed music sounding something akin to the post-serial style employed by, for example, Anthony Braxton in similarly defined works. Unfortunately, there is also a like dryness and whiff of academic orientation in this writing as well; one gets the vague impression of having heard these motifs on many an occasion over the last 30 or so years. The improvisational sections also carry something of an oil and water quality. On the one hand, some of the musicians bring a jazz-like conception that often seems at odds with the tenor of the pieces while, on the other, someone like Kelley, one of the finest and most imaginative players on the free improv scene, sounds constrained by the format, unnecessarily corralled into a relatively narrow area. The group sound itself is usually quite appealing given the range of instrumentation involved, and percussionist Carrie Biolo stands out for her strong contributions, but the lack of expansiveness in the scoring leaves one feeling stifled after the first four pieces. The final track, Medicated (this dog evidently was having a pretty bad day), is another bowl of tapioca entirely. Here, Gregory Taylor has taken taped samples of each musician improvising on his or her own and assembled a rich, fascinating work that goes a long way toward salvaging the whole affair, a gust of cool, crisp air entering a musty room. —   All Music Guide

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