Listen, Madison! In composer-guitarist Scott Fields you have an accomplished, creative jazz artist an innovator. Thatll come as a surprise to you. Hes not that well known in town, let alone nationally.
Currently there isnt a lot of respect for innovation in jazz. The most popular performers arent even mainstream artists; they're reactionaries. But its people like Fields who keep art alive, fresh and growing. Hes facing today's musical challenges, not ignoring them.
What are these challenges? Many stem from the free-jazz style of the 1960s reaching a dead end. Free jazz then sometimes became unrestrained and self-indulgent. The musicians played as fast and as loud as they could, screaming and rasping, without giving any thought to pace. The fact that they eschewed chord changes did not aid many in playing inventively.
By the mid-1970s there was a crying need for more structured jazz performances. In response to this, many young musicians became traditionalists. Others, such as Anthony Braxton, John Zorn and Roy Nathanson, moved ahead in a variety of ways. Fields can be included in their camp. Fields himself has picked up ideas from the AACM jazzmen in his native Chicago, as well as Cecil Taylor.
Youve got to concentrate on this CD closely to get the maximum from it. These guys are subtle; they dont hit you over the head. But theyre doing groundbreaking work and deserve a hearing. Isthmus
Over the years, Fields has been a kind of one-man avant-garde, doing a variety of original work in Madison, Wisconsin, and this album continues his mission with the usual humane understatement. A goal of the first four movements of this five-movement piece is to blur the distinction between written and improvised music. During those movements, at least one written part and one improvised part is steadily played by two of the albums five musicians Fields on guitar, Carrie Biolo on vibes, marimba and unpitched percussion, Guillermo Gregorio on alto sax and clarinet, and Greg Kelley on trumpet while the remaining three either improvise or play written music, constantly shifting the balance between the two. The fifth movement, composed by Gregory Taylor, uses Cycling 74s Max/MSP software to blend and processes the solo work of each ensemble member.
Overall, the results are pleasingly low-keyed, with all sorts of unusual colors and textures being produced. Theres a lot of contrapuntal work here, but the musicians stay out of each others way, making their work easy to follow. But that doesnt make it shallow. B PLUS Urban Dialect
Fields wrote all of the compositions on this stimulating CD and plays them on guitar with pianist Marilyn Crispell, bassist Hans Sturm, and percussionist Hamid Drake. Despite often performing quietly, they take plenty of risks. Fields employs harmonic and rhythmic/metric concepts derived from composer Stephen Dembski, which hes modified for use in an improvising context. Often his groups playing, though not conventionally melodic, is lyrical. Much of the disc features thoughtful, pointillistic collective improvisation. Crispells the most aggressive player here and performs impressively. Her work ranges from pensive to jarringly percussive, but is always well thought out, inventive, and clearly articulated. Fields plays economically, concentrating on adding color to the ensemble. Sturm and Drake make valuable contributions, listening closely to whats going on and responding with intelligence and creativity. Jazziz
His solo technique is somewhat like the David Mamet plays that Fields uses as his inspiration for the CDs titles: Mamets characters often converse in brief, elliptical dialogues that circle back on each other like Abbott and Costello doing heavy drama. Unlike Mamets writing, though, there is little humor or true tension in Fields music, which tends toward completely free improvisation, with little or no contrapuntalism among the players. Tracks like Edmond and American Buffalo come and go like an off-Broadway play, leaving little impression in the process. The Woods begins with almost two minutes of silence before the faintest sounds gurgle to the surface, and then its all timbral effects for the next seven, The song continues for another 10, and actually picks up some steam for a few minutes, but The Woods, like Mamet, is a potentially funny joke with a big buildup and a so-so punch line. Jazz Times