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Three musicians gather to make   music. Each plays an instrument and percussion that comes in a set of four. Their percussion comprises scrap metal, stone, and wood, all of which float on foam slabs. They begin and then go on for the next hour playing the composition of Scott Fields. The music on christangelfox is influenced by Asian cultures, but as Fields notes in the liner notes, that intention is not formal. But it does give a pith and air to the process, whether it be in the loop and swell of the cello from Matt Turner or the cry and plea that emanates from the clarinet of Guillermo Gregorio. And Fields lets his guitar lilt on a classical progression or lets the notes thrill to a flamenco rhythm to lend a different dimension. There is plenty of interaction and conversation. The devolution takes some nice turns and twists, even if much of it is essayed in an equable atmosphere. But it is in this environ that they thrive and give vent to their imaginations. There are moments, though, when they ruffle the calm, and while it is just a passing thought, it does bring in a likeable ruffle. One of them comes around the 26th minute, when the metal and the wood percussion gets into an animated discussion while Gregorio curls, twists and blows breathy notes. In tandem they create one of the more breathtaking moments on the record. Despite its length, and given that this is one continuous performance, it holds interest. —   Jerry D’Souza, All About Jazz



Fields likes to devise purposely   meaningless catchphrases for his music — his latest is “transparent music.” I guess I’ll rise to the bait: that seems to me a pretty good description of his admirably lucid hour-long chamber-trio piece christangelfox. The band consists of Fields (on nylon-string guitar), clarinettist Guillermo Gregorio and cellist Matt Turner, all three of whom also make use of a “percussion array”: four pieces of scrap metal donated by a sculptor friend, four pieces of stone, four pieces of wood. Despite the disc’s striking title, the music is not especially devotional: this is the sound of calm thought rather than prayer. It’s a rapt nocturne — languid and whimsical, full of soft hoots, wistful cries, and flintstone-spark showers of plinks and clanks. Boundaries become blurred: improvisation and composition are virtually impossible to tell apart, and the piece’s even, unhesitating inner pulse overrides the usual distinctions between free time and meter. You hear this pulse most clearly in an eight-minute episode at the piece’s centre that sounds like an anxious, sped-up version of Messiaen’s “Louange à l’Éternité de Jésus.” (Maybe there’s something to the disc’s devotional title after all….) The homemade percussion becomes more sporadic from this point on, and as the mood becomes darker and intenser one almost misses its cheerful, irritating jangle. In the end the piece doesn’t so much resolve as come to rest, the piece’s now-familiar themes restated softly and less surely, the musicians spinning them out finer and finer until at last they break. At times christangelfox recalls Gavin Bryars (“Allegrasco,” especially) or Morton Feldman, or some of the AACM’s gentler excursions, but basically this is completely sui generis. “Transparent music”? Maybe you could call it mood music — though what mood, I couldn’t possibly say. You’ll just have to listen and find out. — Nate Dorward,   Cadence Magazine



Scott Fields has toiled in   relative obscurity since the late 60s—languishing, like the Freakwater song goes, in the Midwest like some old romantic fool—but his burgeoning body of work (he didn’t start actively recording and releasing his own material until the early 1990s) has collected a significant coterie of critical admirers. The guitarist is noted for the craft and care he demonstrates when choosing his collaborators, and I don’t think one can quarrel with the conscripts he dragooned for the two efforts in question here. Song Songs Song is a duo session with fellow fretman Jeff Parker, while christangelfox is a trio date with reedist Guillermo Gregorio and cellist Matt Turner.

By my lights, christangelfox’s minimalist excursion constitutes the stronger work; its measured approach and subtle instrumentation—each player textures the unfolding drama with startlingly effective percussive accents coaxed from pieces of wood, metal, and stone, “all floating freely on open-cell foam slabs” according to Fields’ own liner notes—evokes a mystical space that is unsettling one moment and curiously uplifting the next. Never one to be boxed in conceptually, Fields has referenced the deep musical history of myriad Asian cultures (particularly in his use of the unorthodox percussion arrangement) to construct an hour-long solemn meditation grounded in a single scale. Together, the musicians spin a paradoxical fabric that is intensely ascetic even while it unspools its complex narrative thread. One particularly arresting passage occurs at the midway point when Fields introduces a delicate ostinato guitar figure that heightens the tension while Turner and Gregorio awaken to the call and respond with searching expressions. It is a testament to Fields’ remarkable facility for blending composition with free improvisation in a seamless fashion. —    Kevin Lian-Anderson, One Final Note



All three players on guitarist   Scott Fields’ Christangelfox are credited as percussionists, clinking and tinkling various instruments that aren’t listed in the notes but are probably akin to anything shiny on the shelves at any Williams-Sonoma. As the clattering, nonenchanting and ceaseless din of the rhythmless percussion hangs in the background, Fields noodles in minor modes on a nylon-string guitar, Guillermo Gregorio drones eerily or chirps curtly on clarinet and the usually excellent cellist Matt Turner bows wilted lines in accompaniment, sounding utterly uninspired. It’s an hour-long stab at creating a stark, abstract landscape that fails because the musicians hardly sound engaged and rely too heavily on the tiresome free-jazz gambit of answering one non-sequitur squawk with another. Christangelfox ends up a waste of time for all concerned. — Russell Carlson,   Jazz Times



There are some musicians who   stand out from the crowd, and guitarist Scott Fields certainly qualifies. Not that his music is overtly provocative or extreme, but there is an unquestionable singularity to his vision, one more readily identifiable as contemporary music rather than jazz or free-form improv. A case in point is this single, flowing, fifty-nine minute piece performed by him, on acoustic guitar, Matt Turner on cello and Guillermo Gregorio, playing only straight b-flat clarinet. More than that, all musicians play percussion, striking what seem to be metal plates or tubing in ways reminiscent of Balinese gamelan ensembles (which the leader himself alludes to in his insightful notes). In doing so, one may well be reminded of John Cage’s translation of Far Eastern musics into the contemporary classical vernacular; there’s an underlying reflective, meditative quality to the work, which is spiked by the clattering percussion passages. While the bulk of the performance is improvised, written passage surface throughout, like signposts along the way of a mysterious journey in time, space and tone color. Accordingly these are never bright and bold, but subdued and dark, yet no less intense, like the deep ultramarine hue that adorns the cover. — Marc Chénard,   Coda Magazine



Fields adopts an unplugged approach,   playing nylon-string classical guitar; it is fascinating to hear him, stripped of amplification, effects, and feedback, improvising strictly in the pitch-rhythm domain. One part Stockhausen post-modern chamber music and one part ethnomusicological exploration, Christangelfox is a haunting, sonically beguiling work. — Christian Carey,   Signal to Noise

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