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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 it’s 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 JoMo’s and that may be a function of the recording, but there’s 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. It’s a dynamic intended to ape the disquieting feeling just prior to when one’s 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, he’s 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 Freetet’s approach is certainly unified—as 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, Lobo’s suspended time gradually filling in momentum alongside the strings’ ornate picking, digs and scrapes. Sub-tonal jabs behind the bridge approach British guitarist Ray Russell’s territory, before the trio brings the tune into a muddy thrum. One must be prepared for relentlessness with this disc—even 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 there’s 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 listener’s imagination, rather than pointing the direction with words. Now, it’s 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 album’s composer and guitarist, clearly he has hired a far-superior plectrum pounder to play his parts. This reviewer’s 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 Bird’s 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.” Couldn’t 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 Chicago’s answer   to Derek Bailey, although I wouldn’t swear on that, since for me one of the main things they have in common is that I’ve 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 isn’t 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.

I’ve played this record a lot on the road the last month, and it’s 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 doesn’t. Working in double counterpoint, the massed strings join to produce a barrage of notes, with Fields sounding as if he’s playing microtonally and Gramss slapping a backbeat. Meanwhile Lobo’s 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 York’s 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 sull’amarezza 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 un’improvvisazione incasellata tra temi molto spigolosi ma rigorosi e da un’improvvisazione 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 proprietˆ 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 un’immensa gamma di soluzioni passa attraverso arpeggi chitarristici, linee atonali velocissime o un’informalità 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 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. — Troy Collins,   All About Jazz



Everything in this CD — from the   extremely sour liner notes, to the cruelly sneering track titles, to the leader’s “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 he’s sustained by Sebastian Gramss on double bass and João Lobo on drums. Hammering down phrases that appear as acrid as one’s mood after a rollicking from the office’s 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 McDonald’s, 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 doesn’t want to know what “regularity of pace” means. The guitarist declares to have kept the words of these bitter songs to himself, but there’s no question that his music stings worse than a lawyer’s 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 continœa añadiendo peldaños a la evolución del instrumento. four stars —   Jazz Para Descargar