everything is in the instructions
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
Mordant wit and caustic self-deprecation
have always been reliable elements in Scott Fields creative expression. From the pithy brickbats of semi-fictional critic Hugh Jarrid to the admirable, if puzzling, practice of publishing pans right alongside praises on his website, the guitarist has never shied away presenting the whole package of his persona, prickly pear portions and all. Even by Fields archly candid standards this new Clean Feed outing stands out. His liners read as a suite-like screed, pillorying a succession of unnamed assailants to his temper and patience. He saves the strongest recriminations for last, directing black roses and dead rat vitriol at those who have wronged him in love. Track titles wryly embellish on the conceit, my personal favorite being Your parents must be ecstatic now. Despite the dour and potentially distracting emotional context, the set stays sharply on point throughout, though its hard to tell exactly how much of the acrimony is genuine and how much is amplified for show.
The music curiously recalls the early Nineties work of Joe Morris in its preference for pared down frills-free interplay. Jagged single note runs race regularly atop undulating bass and drums rhythms. Think Flip and Spike, and more specifically Itan and Mombaccus, and your close to the aural mark. Fields tone is often a bit rounder and cleaner than JoMos and that may be a function of the recording, but theres a comparable frequency of densely knotted note clusters, spit out at staccato intervals. Bassist Sebastian Gramss and drummer João Lobo traffic in comparable agitation and irascibility, shading in the cracks around Fields chattery plectrum pings while still keeping the pieces intentionally off-kilter. Its a dynamic intended to ape the disquieting feeling just prior to when ones heart goes under the knife of betrayal and scorn. The pieces follow similar schemas until I was good enough for you until your friends butted in when the seething clouds break a bit into more spacious variation of melancholy. This is easily Fields most jazz-oriented album in many moons and a welcome fang-fringed spin on familiar forms.
Derek Taylor, Bagatellen
The Freetet is ostensibly Cologne-based
guitarist Scott Fields traditional blowing vehicle, and Bitter Love Songs is his first in the guitar-bass-drums format since Mamet (Delmark, 2001), with bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Michael Zerang. On Bitter Love Songs, hes joined by German bassist Sebastian Gramss and Portuguese drummer João Lobo. What makes this date a semi-departure for Fields is that, in the last six years, most of his work has been for chamber ensembles with unique instrumentation; improvised but with challenging notation. These include Beckett (Clean Feed, 2006) and We Were the Phliks (Rogue Art, 2007).
Yea Sure, We Can Still Be Friends, Whatever opens Bitter Love Songs, an evermore scumbled improvisation on a simple-but-effective bluesy theme, from fleet mid-range choruses to muted smears interspersed with referential flecks. Gramss and Lobo make a solid post-bop pair, yet seamlessly enter into frantic collective interplay as Fields runs become blurred.
More pointillist is Go Ahead, Take the Furniture, At Least You Helped Pick It Out, occupying similar structural territory to Fields more delicate chamber pieces, while still sallying forth with a pliant groove.
What might separate this group from traditional theme-solos-theme orientation is that, for the most part, the leader is the only soloist (Gramss is spotlighted on I Was Good Enough for You
). Nevertheless, the Freetets approach is certainly unifiedas Fields playing becomes more fragmentary and texturally diverse, Gramss and Lobo up the ante. Indeed, the bassist is frequently the first to follow Fields in speedy plucked lines, as mutual shading soon approaches a locking of horns.
My Love is Love, Your Love is Hate (winner of the shortest-title contest on this disc) finds the writing becoming progressively more seasick in a hellishly knotty melodic/rhythmic collision, Lobos suspended time gradually filling in momentum alongside the strings ornate picking, digs and scrapes. Sub-tonal jabs behind the bridge approach British guitarist Ray Russells territory, before the trio brings the tune into a muddy thrum. One must be prepared for relentlessness with this disceven the brief calm of a dusky Grant
Green-ish melody on Your Parents Must Be Just Ecstatic Now is quickly overtaken by a storm of fuzz and piercing shards.
When Fields and guitarist Jeff Parker convened a double-trio for Denouement (Geode, 1997, reissued on Clean Feed), the level of interplay from the paired Freetets astounded this writer. On Bitter Love Songs, multiplying the equation is unnecessary, as theres so much music available here.
Clifford Allen, All About Jazz
With his guitar trio, the
Scott Fields Freetet, the guitarist wants to get even for all the problems caused to him by people he trusted and especially the one he loved. The titles of the tracks leave nothing to the imagination : Yeah, Sure, We Can Still Be Friends, Whatever, Go Ahead, Take The Furniture, At Least You Helped Pick It Out, My Love Is Love, Your Love Is Hate, etc, etc. And with that knowledge in mind, you would expect some raw, frustrated, angry or even violent music, or at best some sad blues-drenched wailing. What you get is nothing of the sort, though. You get abstract and free music, nervous and agitated, often sounding like Joe Morris, all in the mid-tempo range, with the exception of the fifth track, I Was Good Enough For You Until Your Friends Butted In which is a little slower and closer to a blues in form and feeling. Sebastian Gramss on bass and João Lobo on drums play well and supportive, because Fields is not always easy to follow. Despite many good ideas, the emotional disconnect between theme and form is too big a gap to bridge for me. This soft-toned, gentle, open yet nervous music is the opposite of the destructive anger you would expect. Fields would have done better by presenting is music as is, leaving more to the listeners imagination, rather than pointing the direction with words. Now, its just a nice album which will certainly be of interest to modern guitar-players. 3 stars
Stefan Gijssels, Free Jazz Blogspot
The depths to which Scott Fields
will sink are seemingly infinite. On his newest debacle, Bitter Love Songs, on the Spanish label Clean Feed Records, he hires a surrogate to perform in his place. Although Fields is listed as the albums composer and guitarist, clearly he has hired a far-superior plectrum pounder to play his parts. This reviewers best guess? Joe Morris. Having suffered through countless (and beatless) Fields solos I know well his plinky-plunky Ah so, mister, you have ticky for washy, no ticky no washy acoustic guitar stylings and his many mangled missteps on the electrified alternative; the licks on this disc just taste different. Although I deplore his dishonesty, failing to even assign his sub a nom de axe ala Birds Charlie Chan, I applaud his absence. With Fields reduced to scratching out a few simple, nay simplistic, songs, his able replacement (clearly Morris) and rhythm-section reliables João Lobo and Sebastian Gramss rehydrate, resuscitate, and jazzitate these mediocre melodies. Fields sole remaining task was to pen whiney liner notes and assign ridiculous bitter titles to his compositions. Couldnt Morris have tackled titles too? Fields is bitter? He should be
toward whomever sold him his first guitar.
Hugh Jarrid, Swingin Thing Magazine
Guitarist, sort of Chicagos answer
to Derek Bailey, although I wouldnt swear on that, since for me one of the main things they have in common is that Ive never made much sense out of either. This is a trio, recorded in Germany, with Sebastian Gramss on double bass and João Lobo on drums. Title isnt obviously reflected in the music, but it sure is in the song titles: Yea, sure, we can still be friends, whatever; Go ahead, take the furniture, at least you helped pick it out; My love is love, your love is hate; Your parents must be just ecstatic now; I was good enough for you until your friends butted in; You used to say I love you but so what now. Liner notes hit even harder. Not sure where the music comes from sublimated anger? but it seems uncommonly focused, for once.
Ive played this record a lot on the road the last month, and its never let me down. The avant-guitarist has a tendency elsewhere to diddle in abstractions, but he plays with remarkable logic here bitterness must focus the mind. The Freetet adds bass and drums, bulking up the sound and punctuating the emotions. (A-)
Village Voice critic Tom Hull, tomhull.com
Ganz anders dagegen die Wirkung
der Bitter Love Songs. Ebenfalls in weiten Zügen Improvisationsmusik, fesselt sie von Beginn an. Fields widmet sich durchgängig der freien Jazz-Form, wie sie Ornette Coleman mit seinen einstigen Gitarristen James «Blood» Ulmer oder Bern Nix etabliert. Dessen Harmolodic-System stand wohl Pate bei den sechs Stücken voller organisierter Unordnung. Fields zieht seine steil an- und absteigenden Flugbahnen ganz in dieser Tradition der «Umdeutung des Vorgefundenen» über lineare Intervallreihen. Seine zwei technisch hervorragenden Kollegen Sebastian Gramss und der Portugiese João Lobo begleiten den Gitarristen dabei mit feinsinnigen Überlappungen, führen lebhafte Kommunikationen. Diese Musik ist free, hat gleichzeitig aber auch eine fesselnde Melodiehaftigkeit und starke Blues-Verwurzelung ungemein aufregend.
4 stars (out of 5) Olaf Maikopf, Jazzthetik
El amor ha sido desde
siempre una fuente de inspiración para todas las artes, incluida la música. Por su parte, la ruptura del amor ha servido también como fuente de inspiración artística, aunque no es demasiado habitual que sea el protagonista íntegro de una grabación. Esto es lo que sucede con Bitter Love Songs del guitarrista Scott Fields. Un disco que contiene seis composiciones amargas, desapacibles, con estructuras broncas, retorcidas y desasosegantes, que logran transmitir ese abanico de sensaciones asociadas tanto a la ruptura amorosa como a la desolación, soledad y rencor posteriores.
La ausencia de sus correspondientes letras es suplida magníficamente por las texturas de la guitarra de Fields, especialmente en los once minutos de Yea, sure, we can still be friends, whatever, que el guitarrista convierte en una suerte de fuerte discusión de antiguos enamorados. Por su parte You used to say I love you but so what now se transforma es un tema seco y nervioso, al igual que le sucede a My love is love, your love is hate, mientras que I was enough for you until your friends butted in es una pieza desolada y llena de espacios, con un leve deje country.
Obviamente, el proyecto no llegaría a ninguna parte sin la maestría de Fields y de sus acompañantes, el contrabajita Sebastian Gramss y el batería João Lobo. Ambos se encargan de tejer la red sobre la que el guitarrista formaliza sus sentimientos. Música desoladora, como (parte de) la vida misma.
Pachi Tapiz, Ritmos del Mundo
Another improviser who tours as
frequently as [Evan] Parker is guitarist Scott Fields. Chicago-born, Fields moved to Köln, Germany a few years back. On the witty Bitter Love Songs (Clean Feed CF102CD), he leads a trio completed by a Portuguese rhythm section: bassist Sebastian Gramss and drummer João Lobo. Fields compositions, which match liquid guitar runs, slinky bass lines and on-the-beat drumming, are still at variance with their sardonic titles.
For instance My Love is Love, Your Love is Hate, features a spinning staccato theme from Fields that is stretched with slurred fingering until it seems that it will rupture, but doesnt. Working in double counterpoint, the massed strings join to produce a barrage of notes, with Fields sounding as if hes playing microtonally and Gramss slapping a backbeat. Meanwhile Lobos flams precede an intermezzo for ringing guitar licks. Note clusters are lobbed between the players on You Used to Say I Love You but So What Now. But the strategy is different. Fields contrapuntal chording skirts C&W picking, while Gramss resonates handfuls of low-pitched timbres. Eventually as the bassist settles on legato pacing, Fields wraps up with echoing, blues-based licks.
Gramss bass work owes its suppleness to sonic extensions from older bass specialists such as New Yorks Mark Helias, who has recorded in Toronto. His Open Loose band includes drummer Tom Rainey and tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby.
Ken Waxman, Jazzword
Sì, certo. Possiamo rimanere amici
in ogni caso; Ti andavo bene finchè i tuoi amici non si sono impicciati; Il mio amore è amore, il tuo amore è odio.
Parte dai titoli, ma anche dalle impietose e stringatissime note di copertina la tremenda autoironia di questo disco, in cui Fields sembra voler riflettere con cadenze tragicomiche sullamarezza e sul fatalismo degli incontri sbagliati della vita. Come quello con un musicista che sembra apprezzare la tua musica ma poi, appena trova un ingaggio migliore, se ne va dal tuo gruppo.
Il fil rouge di una drammatica e nuda concretezza sembra proseguire con perfetta continuità in una musica suonata da una chitarra elettrica privata di ogni orpello effettistico, da un contrabbasso e da una batteria.
Quindi un trio non certo insolito nel jazz moderno, ma abbastanza raro da incontrare nella discografia free.
Un tratto originale accentuato da unimprovvisazione incasellata tra temi molto spigolosi ma rigorosi e da unimprovvisazione continua alle cui spalle lavora un bassista capace di porsi in linea quasi telepatica con gli altri due e la percussività del giovanissimo portoghese Lobo.
Il primo è il quarantaduenne Gramss, anche lui come Fields vive a Colonia e ha collaborato tra gli altri con Fred Frith, Rudi Mahall e Tom Cora. Lobo si è già ascoltato in Italia con musicisti decisamente lontani da qui: Enrico Rava, Giovanni Guidi e Mauro Negri. In questo disco si rivela in grado di conferire propriet espressiva anche quando si toccano vertici di radicalismo improvvisativo.
Apparentemente è lui il regista di tempi spezzati e multiformi che sostengono una sorta di insistenza armonica in cui unimmensa gamma di soluzioni passa attraverso arpeggi chitarristici, linee atonali velocissime o uninformalità grattuggiata. 4 stelle
Gigi Sabelli, All About Jazz, Italy
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 guitarists 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, Lobos 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.
Troy Collins, All About Jazz
Everything in this CD from the
extremely sour liner notes, to the cruelly sneering track titles, to the leaders chip-on-a-shoulder photo in the inlay card of my promo copy reports of someone who is about to explode following a series of unlucky existential affairs. What better method to channel a potentially destructive fury into a handful of composition for guitar trio, and making them appear delivered from jazz stereotypes as well? ThatŐs what happens in Bitter Love Songs, the latest news coming from Scott Fields, whose clean-but-not-too-much tone characterizes a fine brand of dissonant, almost irritating at times, angular tunes where hes sustained by Sebastian Gramss on double bass and João Lobo on drums. Hammering down phrases that appear as acrid as ones mood after a rollicking from the offices chief, Fields sounds similar to a man obsessed, totally unmindful of the establishment of a harmonic permanence. Ostinato-based figurations and chords full of minor seconds and augmented fifths are served like hamburgers at McDonalds, one after another in deadpan pessimism, until every honeymoon picture on the wall gets ripped off the frame. The calmer settings are tackled with a sort of extreme aloofness, all the more enhanced by a rhythm section that doesnt want to know what regularity of pace means. The guitarist declares to have kept the words of these bitter songs to himself, but theres no question that his music stings worse than a lawyers bill. If John Scofield (note the curious assonance) decided to go harmolodic, maybe he could ask here for a few lessons.
Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes
Scott Fields es un guitarrista
que demuestra particular atención por la composición y los arreglos, empleando ensambles con formaciones poco frecuentes para una banda de jazz. Dicho ésto, su Scott Fields Freetet es un trio de guitarra. Claro está, que dista de ser uno convencional. La aproximación de Fields a su instrumento es similar a la de Joe Morris, tocando líneas de notas individuales crispadas, cortantes, plenas de staccato, que en Bitter Love Songs, nombre del álbum objeto de esta reseña, son ejecutadas en un medio tiempo hasta desencadenarse, espasmódicamente, como torrentes a gran velocidad. La base rítmica que componen el contrabajista alemán Sebastian Gramss y el baterista portugués João Lobo sigue de cerca al líder, entablando un diálogo que manifiesta alteración, irritación, enojo. Semejante exposición encuentra sentido en el eje temático del disco que son las sensaciones tras una separación. Sólo I was good enough for you until your friends butted in es interpretada en forma más lenta y refleja un cierto sinsabor. Los nombres de los temas son muy graciosos y se tratan de esxpresiones en tono sarcástico dirigidas a una ex-pareja. Es una pena que la guitarra de jazz no sea más apreciada en un rol protagónico a excepción de aquellas bandas asociadas a la parafernalia del jazz-rock, lo que permitiría valorar en mayor medida el aporte de un artista como Scott Fields, quien contina añadiendo peldaños a la evolución del instrumento. four stars
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