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Listen, Madison! In composer-guitarist Scott   Fields you have an accomplished, creative jazz artist — an innovator. That’ll come as a surprise to you. He’s not that well known in town, let alone nationally.

Currently there isn’t a lot of respect for innovation in jazz. The most popular performers aren’t even mainstream artists; they're reactionaries. But it’s people like Fields who keep art alive, fresh and growing. He’s 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.

You’ve got to concentrate on this CD closely to get the maximum from it. These guys are subtle; they don’t hit you over the head. But they’re doing groundbreaking work and deserve a hearing.— Harvey Pekar,   Isthmus



These pieces were initially created   with the intention of providing substance for a choreography by Li Chiao-Ping, whose dancers apparently couldn’t manage to follow the material’s erratic metres well enough to actually bring the proposed collaboration to a completion. Providentially the sounds remain, and they’re refined as much as necessary to stand alone for regular CD-fuelled consumption. The leader shows a superb command of nylon strings alternating disobedient clusters, asymmetrical rasgueados, swinging impertinence and poetic linearity depending on the circumstance. The lyrical counter altar is represented by cellist Matt Turner, who often steals the spotlight with the daydreaming rigour of his beautiful tone, finely complemented by vibraphonist Robert Stright’s shimmering unselfishness. An outstanding rhythm section — Geoff Brady on percussion, John Padden on double bass — provides a pulse that is full of zip but never petulant, contributing to the dismemberment of potential lassitude — a constant peril both in jazz and any kind of music conceived for dance. Fields confirms himself to be a name to keep an eye on all the time, especially when analyzing the way in which he frequently relinquishes a role of guitar-wielding protagonist while privileging a considerable transparency in the overall design, in turn cleverly enriched by a magnificent stability in the composed/improvised ratio. — Massimo Ricci,   Temporary Fault



Chicago guitarist Scott Fields originally   wrote this music to accompany a dance piece and, though it was recorded in 1995, there’s a definite mid-20th century feel to it, redolent of interpretive dance and abstract expressionism. That’s got a lot to do with Robert Stright’s vibraphone ü the sound of a wittily raised eyebrow ü which can’t help echoing Bobby Hutcherson’s twitchy mallet work on Eric Dolphy’s Out To Lunch from 1964. The Dolphy comparison also extends to Fields’s spry storytelling, with episodic compositions such as “A Carrot Is A Carrot” unfolding like tartly amusing character studies. There is seriousness here, too, and Matt Turner’s cello ü played largely straight and sonorous ü lends the pieces a plaintive gravity. When his solos fly off into wilder, free regions, recalling Joel Freedman’s mid-1960s work with Albert Ayler, it’s like a tuxedo being ripped open, Hulk-style, from within. — Daniel Spicer,   The Wire



Er war etwas über 20,   als er sich erst mal für 15 Jahre aus dem Musikgeschäft zurückzog. Dann war er wieder da, 1993/94, und nahm 1995 „Fugu“ auf, auf seinem eigenen, nur kurze Zeit aktiven Avantgarde-label Geode. Er hat klassische und Jazzgitarre gespielt, und dass „Fugu“ nun wieder veröffentlicht wurde, ist ein Segen. Scott Fields spielt hier ausschließlich Nylonstring, und mit im Team sind der Cellist Matt Turner, Perkussionist Geoff Brady, John Padden am großen Bass und Robert Stright am Vibraphon. Und was dieses Quintett aufführt, lässt hellauf jauchzen. Dies ist kammermusikalisch improvisierte Musik vom Allerfeinsten, subtil, eher sanft, eher pastell als grell, eher wohltemperiert als aggressiv, nicht anarchisch, nicht provo, sondern von überraschender Eingängigkeit, ohne je ins Gefällige abzutauchen. Die Themen notierte Scott; die werden gespielt, und dann geht es, vier wiinderbar lange Stücke lang, immer tiefer hinein ins freie Spiel der Kräfte. Ursprünglich waren einige dieser Stücke für einen chinesischen Tänzer und Choreographen geschrieben worden; aufgeführt wurden sie nie, schon gar nicht „The plagiarist“, das einzige Stück in 4/4. Das sollte laut Partitur 300 Schläge p/m schnell gespielt werden, ein Affenzahn, den nicht mal ein chinesischer Tänzer bewältigen kann. Also spielt das Ensemble es etwas langsamer, d.h. immer noch sehr schnell. Der „Plagiarist“ ist das Herz des Albums, und was in ihm einzeln und kollektiv und in den anderen Stücken abläuft, ist einfach eine Offenbarung, die den Zugang zum Thema improvisierter Musik außerordentlich erleichtern kann. Bevorzugt werden weite Klangareale, die sich indes sehr wohl verdichten können zu hochdramatischen Cluster-Happenings. Aber diese Musik — „Poem for Joseph“, „The Big Mango“, „A carrot is a carrot“ wie das abschließende Titelstück — bleibt immer voller szenischer Überschaubarkeit und bei aller improvisatorischen Freizügigkeit immer zusammen gehalten von einer Disziplin, die man eher von modern klassisch spielenden Ensembles kennt. Man fühlt sich ein wenig erinnert an die 2009er Kooperative „Kiss the guitar player“ des holländischen Klimt!-Streichquartetts mit einigen Gitarristen. Aber das spielte sich noch diesseits der ganz, ganz großen Freiheit ab.

Hier schlägt schon mal die höchst reizvolle Besetzung mit Kontrabass, Cello und Vibes Brücken zum Jazz. „Fugu“, das Stück, steht dafür beispielhaft. Und macht von A bis Z klar, dass das, was hier geschieht, wirklich nichts zu tun hat mit Barock-JazzKlischees, Third Stream à la MJQ oder Brubeckschen Experimenten mit verrückten Metren und Riesenorchestern. Man kann es ganz einfach sagen: Reizvoller, schöner, verzaubernder wurde man noch nie mitgenommen auf die Mitte der Brücke, die moderne Klassik und zeitgenössischen Jazz miteinander verbindet. Und leichter ist es noch nie gefallen, die Suche nach einem passenden Gattungsbegriff ganz einfach zu vergessen. — Alexander Schmitz,   Jazz Podium



Chicago guitarist, has a couple   dozen albums since 1993, of which this original 1995 recording was his second, brought back on a new label. Group wobbles between Matt Turner on cello and Robert Stright on vibes, the former slowing things down and sapping them up, the latter bristling with energy. Group also includes bass and percussion. Fields has some very nice runs, and the vibes are terrific. B+(**) — Tom Hull,   tomhull.com



Some music is just not   trying to be in your face. It’s music that has a somewhat refined sensibility, and it is quite serious about that it sets about doing. That would be nylon guitarist Scott Fields’ new record in a nutshell. Fugu (Clean Feed), brings Fields together with a chamber improvisation ensemble of Geoff Brady, percussion, John Padden, acoustic bass, Robert Stright, vibes, and Matt Turner on cello. This somewhat unusual instrumentation and the music it plays reminds slightly of the old Chico Hamilton ensembles that had the cello-bass-guitar-drums-winds configuration, but only because this is music of a cooler temperature, dialogic construction and similar instrumentation. It is chamber improvisation of a tonal sort and it does not feature individual pyrotechnical displays. Beyond all that though this is music of today.

There are compositional elements but the group improvisation concept is at the forefront. It’s not a head-solo-head sort of structure. Melodic and harmonic motives come in and out in the collective mix. And always there is a feeling of spontaneity and an almost classical dialogue. There are freely phrased passages and also regularly pulsating time segments. All the musicians are interesting and contribute to the total effect, which has the feeling of some friends getting together for what turns out to be a most stimulating conversation.

This is music that needs attentive listening. It is unusual and quite intricate. Oh, and Scott Fields plays some very interesting lines. A good listen.

A real treat, and an excellent idea to make this music available again. — Grego Applegate Edwards,   
Gapplegate Guitar and Bass Blog



Fugu es uno de los   primeros trabajos grabados por Scott Fields a su nombre. Fue Publicado en su momento en Geode Records, la discográfica del propio Fields, para desaparecer posteriormente del mapa. Tal y como ha ocurrido en alguna otra ocasión puntual, el sello portuguès Clean Feed lo ha puesto de nuevo en circulación.

Los cinco temas de Fields, que aparecen acompañados de unas liner notes que en su intento de ser graciosas no tardan nada de pasar a ser un tanto pesadas, permiten disfrutar del magnífico trabajo del guitarrista tanto en la composición como en los arreglos. A pesar del aire camerístico de los temas (a lo que ayuda la presencia de tres instrumentos de cuerda, con el violonchelo tomando un papel preponderante a lo largo de toda la grabación y con Fields aplicándose en la guitarra elèctrica con cuerdas de nylon), en ellos hay espacio abundante para unas improvisaciones y unas interacciones magníficas por parte de los cuatro músicos. En grabaciones de tal nivel es difícil señalar algún tema en particular, aunque si tuviera que elegir alguno bien podría ser el que da título a la grabación, ;“The Plagiarist;” que es donde se alcanza la máxima tensión del disco, o ;“A Carrot Is a Carrot;”, el más extenso y con aire un tanto melancólico.

Fugu es un nuevo acierto de Clean Feed. En este caso no por el camino de las novedades, sino por el de las reediciones. Es todo un placer poder disfrutar de pequeños tesoros escondidos, hasta ahora, como èste. — Pachi Tapiz,   Tomajazz



Guitarist Scott Fields fits in   his own musical category, trying to reconcile new music with jazz elements, inventive with musical structures and patterns, yet with an end result that is often very (too) cerebral and abstract. This album uses the same complexities, with odd meters and changing time signatures, and somehow it all seems to fit and work perfectly well. It was originally written for the dance ensemble of Li Chiao-Ping, and already released in 1995. From what I understand from the somewhat tiring liner notes is that the piece was never performed, and you can understand why, when listening to it.

That being said, the music is beautiful. Scott Fields plays nylon-string guitar, Matt Turner cello, Geoff Brady percussion, John Padden double bass and Robert Stright vibraphone. The shifting meters and the chamber-like ensemble perform with precision and clarity, keeping the music open-textured and thematically relatively free, despite the structure, that, implicit though it is to the listener, creates a sense of release when the puzzle pieces falls into place.The improvisations are excellent, and it’s a pleasure to hear Fields playing guitar in a relatively straight-forward way, especially on “The Plagiarist”, a very nervous and uptempo piece. The rest of the band is absolutely great, with the sound combination between the cello and the vibes working extremely well. On the long “A Carrot Is Not A Carrot,” the interaction between Turner’s cello and Fields’ guitar is full of sad melancholy, the interplay between cello and walking bass on “Fugu” a pleasure, as is the careful precision play between vibes and percussion.

A real treat, and an excellent idea to make this music available again.4.5 stars — Stef Gijssels,   Free Jazz



Guitarist Scott Fields is a   Chicagoan by way of Madison, Wisconsin, who now resides in Cologne, Germany. He had a “countercultural” adolescence and started out playing blues in bars while still underage before falling under the spell of the Windy City’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. (“A Poem for Joseph,” which opens his album Fugu, is dedicated to Art Ensemble of Chicago saxophonist Joseph Jarman, with whom Fields has performed.) He put down his guitar when he was 21 and picked it up again 15 years later, earning a journalism degree in the meantime, although you wouldn’t know it from his infuriatingly convoluted liner notes. Fugu is a reissue of a 1995 date first released on his own short-lived Geode label. The pieces were written to accompany dancers but their tricky, irregular meters proved unsuitable for that purpose. The music’s subtly stunning on its own terms, though, performed by an unit of mainly classical players whose fiery interpretations of Fields’ compositions belie their academic backgrounds. Cellist Matt Turner and vibist Robert Stright particularly shine. — Ken Shimamoto,   Stash Dauber



Compositions, all written by Fields,   are structured but very expansive, and rely on the empathy and dexterity of the group members. The relative sameness of the instrumental timbres could have been a liability, but Fields’ writing actually seems to exploit similarities, encouraging the listener to enjoy and compare the nuances of each instrument’s sound…. There’s a wonderful suppleness and understated energy to this ensemble, achieved through a combination of musicianship, intelligence and uncommonly strong mutual sympathies. — Bill Tilland,   Option Magazine



I do not want to   spoil the sense of discovery that the listener should get from Fugu. This is quiet, yet dynamic music that compels and invites you to listen. When you do, the results are very impressive. Give yourself time to move into this group’s creations. — Richard B. Kamins,   Cadence Magazine