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everything is in the instructions      Kintsugi      Frail Lumber      Moersbow/OZZO      Minaret Minuets      Afiadacampos      what we talk      Samuel      Music for the radio program This American Life      Drawings      Scharfefelder      Bitter Love Songs      Beckett      We Were The Phliks      Song Songs Song      christangelfox      Plunderplunderphonics      From the Diary of Dog Drexel      96 Gestures      this that      Mamet      Dénouement      Hornets Collage      Five Frozen Eggs      48 Motives      Sonotropism      Disaster at Sea      Fugu      Running with Scissors

Guitarist, from Chicago, has a   couple dozen albums since 1993, about as close as anyone to being an American analog to Derek Bailey. Doesn’t play here; instead conducts MJO through a 13:54 piece dedicated to Merzbow and the much-longer 4-part “OZZO.” MJO was founded in 2008 by Frank Gratkowski (alto sax), Carl Ludwig Hübsch (tuba), and Matthias Schubert (tenor sax), with 24 members credited here — a little bit of everything (except guitar), including computer and analog electronics. Has that scratchy, abstract feel, but is rarely without interest, and more pleasing than anyone would expect. (B+) —Tom Hull,   tomhull.com



Gleich zwei Alben von dem   faszinierendsten Meisterartist auf dem Hochseil zwischen zwischen Free Jazz und Neuer (Kammer-)Musik, dem in Köln lebenden Chicagoer Scott Fields. Für das erste Album, 2009 live im Kölner Loft aufgezeichnet, hat er die Gitarre zuhause gelassen. Als Komponist dirigiert er ein 24-Köpfe-Ensemble mit vielen Blech-, wenigen Holzbläsern, mit Violine, Viola, Bass, Akkordeon und drei Herren an Analog- und Digitalcomputern, von denen man kaum was merkt, eine Hommage an den japanischen Elektronik-Doyen Merzbow als Meister des Leisen und ein vierteiliges Werk. Wer über die Titel der Werke und den Orchesternamen Verwirrung verspürt, wird in Scotts Liner Notes stimmungsfördernd aufgeklärt. „Moersbow“ macht sich die Tugenden des Japaners zueigen, was Scott nie schwer fällt, wie er seit. „Fugu“ (2010) oder den „Minaret Minuets“ mit dem Tenoristen Matthias Schubert beweist. Und so wird „Moersbow“ im Wesentlichen auch zum wunderbaren abstrakten Klanggemälde mit Haarlinien, winzigen Farbfeldern und subtilen Schattierungen. Die vier „OZZO“ -Sätze sind etwas lebhafter, polyrhythmischer mit Pizzicati, viel Flageolett und einer Menge oft einfach spannendem Interplay. OZZO 2 und 3 zeugen von der instrumentalen Kunst des kreativen Durcheinanderbrabbelns ohne je zu brüllen; OZZO 4 handelt von der Kunst des freien Diskurses oder Wie man Sinnlosigkeit zu sinnhaftigkeit machen kann, ohne Freiheiten einzuschränken. — Alexander Schmitz,   Jazz Podium



Premise: What the 1980s were   for midsized ensembles in jazz, so this decade is becoming for large ensembles. That is, the effect that such bands as the David Murray Octet, Henry Threadgill Sextett, Edward Wilkerson Jr’s Eight Bold Souls, Anthony Davis’ Episteme, the Guus Janssen Septet, and Willem Breuker Kollektief, among others, had on the expansion of compositional strategies in an otherwise primarily improvisational format has a contemporary parallel in the increase in large ensembles and an accompanying elaboration on and emulation of a broader range of compositional influences (classical as well as jazz). By large ensemble I don’t mean simply big bands, with their established sectional formation, but a flexibly constituted chamber group — a mixture of individual horns and reeds, a rhythm section that may not necessarily function in the conventional fashion, with the important inclusion of several string players and, crucially, an electronic component. “Orchestra” is the word most often used to describe them, regardless of size, but I propose the term “broken consort,” borrowed from the Elizabethan name for an ensemble mixing instruments from different families. (Realistically, I don’t expect it to catch on, but what the hey.)

…the large ensemble music of guitarist/composer Scott Fields on Moersbow/OZZO (Clean Feed) expresses a more traditional, not to say conservative, contemporary classical demeanor, which may in part be attributed to Fields’ past collaborations with composer Stephen Dembski, who himself studied at one time with Milton Babbitt. This twenty-four-piece broken consort, an outgrowth of the James Choice Orchestra that performed works by Matthias Schubert, Frank Gratkowski, Norbert Stein, and Carl Ludwig Hübsch on a 2008 Leo release, includes familiar names like reedman Gratkowski, tubaist Hübsch, saxophonist Schubert, synthesist Thomas Lehn, plus additional horns, string players, computer programmers, and a prominent accordion (Florian Standler). It should be noted that there is no James Choice, the name stems from a mispronunciation of James Joyce, which is why Fields’ calls his the Multiple Joyce Orchestra. But the music, like the band name, is a product of open-ended interpretations, multiple layers of meaning, and playful responses (it could have been the Multiple Choice Orchestra). In “Moersbow,’” a tribute to the Japanese noise band Merzbow ironically intended to be “as quiet as the musicians can manage,” the sotto voce drones, glimmering and hovering pitched and unpitched tones dissolve into serpentine lines only to end without resolution, a possible metaphor for the now destroyed Kurt Schwitters architecture (Merzbau) that provided the band’s name. Throughout the four-part ”OZZO,” perhaps due to Fields’ modular formats or the nature of the material presented to the players, the effect is of sound masses in motion, congealed from isolated lines. Flux is the order of the day; the harmonic fabric is ambiguously chromatic, different tempi are layered together, passages linger, rotate, stop, and reappear, instruments merge together in common themes and disrupt into broad polyphony or pile up vertically, often colored by jazzy brass growls and saxophone wails. The degree of composed to improvised music is uncertain, but the effect is of a process discovering its own form and concluding as a durable entity. — Art Lange,   
Point of Departure



»Blahblahblah« steht auf der Website   von Scott Fields als Überschrift zum Thema ausführliche Biografie. Ist einem natürlich gleich sympathisch, wenn sich jemand nicht ganz so wichtig nimmt. Vor allem dann, wenn sich diese Biografie durchaus spannend liest. Vom »Spotter« für Drogendealer (die Kindheit und Jugend in Chicago) über den eher schrillen Einstieg in die Rockmusik (zunächst) bis hin zur Übersiedlung nach Köln, wo Fields mittlerweile eine ziemlich gut gesettelte Figur in der einschlägigen Szene sein dürfte. Renommierte Namen wie Frank Gratkowski oder Carl Ludwig Hübsch tauchen da auf, echte Kapazunder, die sich mit hörbarer Spielfreude in dieses frei und doch nicht frei improvisierende Großensemble unter Dirigent und Komponist Scott Fields einfügen. Worum aber geht es? Einmal mehr um moderne, um improvisierte Kammermusik. In dieser und für diese sucht Fields nach Strukturen (früher regelrecht »besessen«), ohne dabei den Terminus »post-free« überstrapazieren zu wollen. Trotzdem trifft es das ein wenig. Sowohl das Multiple Joyce Orchestra wie auch das Ensemble musizieren frei (ergo atonal, dissonant, mitunter eruptiv) wie auch nach vorgegebenen Strukturen, die aber die Improvisationen maximal harmonisch oder motivisch lenken, keinesfalls konkrete Tonfolgen vorgeben. Fields Stücke können also je nach Aufführung ziemlich verschieden klingen — wobei davon ausgegangen werden kann, dass es keine Aufführung gibt, bei der alle Musiker plötzlich nur wohlgefällige Harmonien spielen. (Warum eigentlich nicht? Weil das nicht »post-free« wäre?) Hier beißt sich die Konzertkatze letztlich in den improvisierten Schwanz, denn trotz der durchaus elegant und effizient eingeführten Strukturen (das Ensemble wird etwa durch den Einsatz bzw. das Wechselspiel zweier E-Gitarren gewissermaßen formatiert) verschütten die genretypischen Disharmoniekaskaden mitunter das fragile Netz des Kompositorischen. Zu einschlägig, zu redundant, zu wenig nach individuellem Ausdruck klingt dieses freie Gewusel, so dass man beim Hören immer wieder von einem disharmonischen … tja … eben … »Blahblahblah« erschlagen wird. Fields selbst versteht seine Kompositionen als »explorativ«, als Entdeckungsreisen für Komponist und Musiker gleichermaßen. Als Hörer muss man entsprechend die Bereitschaft mitbringen, wirklich zu entdecken und nicht bloß Gewohntes wiederzufinden. Das ist nur zu unterschreiben. Leider sind eben viele Hörresultate der frei improvisierten Musik zu einem ebensolchen Gewohnten geworden. Da würde man sich frei nach John Cage anstelle freier Improvisationen lieber frische Improvisationen wünschen. — Curt Cuisine,   Skug



The history behind the names   of these two pieces for improvising chamber group is too difficult to synthesize here; check the liners or google around, also to learn about the various evolutions of the very orchestra’s appellative. What’s transparent is that the opening period is dedicated to Masami Akita (aka Merzbow), though Fields and his companions decided to approach the task with the sagacious expertise of a qualified ensemble paying homage to a time-honored composer rather than a Japanese noise merchant. The outcome is a superb paradigm of how to carry out a joint improvisation, the timbres so consistently interconnected in different permutations and dynamics that giving privileges to “lead” designs and distinct ideas becomes a pointless exercise. Our friendly advice is to relinquish a bit of focus and abandoning yourselves to a compelling stream of beautifully emitted music, nurturing one’s yearning for density in a collective statement without losing grip on the poetic aspects of the diverse instrumental idioms.

The first, and a sizable chunk of the fourth movement of “OZZO” are plain wonders, replete with fine games of call and response, tactful probing of quietness and recurring parallelisms between assorted groups (sax, accordion and strings in particular evidence, with Thomas Lehn’s synthesizer adding pinches of analogue salt and the flutists inserting small enigmas throughout). The rest is more directly reminiscent of the conductor’s style both in terms of composition and as a guitarist: minuscule cells and dissonant quirks succeed and involve, the interest maintained by the extreme unsettledness generated by the palette’s variety. With musicians of the caliber of Frank Gratkowski, Carl Ludwig Hübsch, Melvyn Poore, Angelika Sheridan and Georg Wissel among the many — everybody deserving a “well done” — this live recording (Cologne’s Loft, January 2009) is as impeccable as a pre-planned studio session. — Massimo Ricci,   Touching Extremes



According to the Clean Feed   website, Scott Fields wrote Moersbow/OZZO (Clean Feed 236) as two works that could be performed by at least 19 musicians, all of whom could improvise and read music. He recorded both works with a large outfit he calls the Multiple Joyce Orchestra. The CD at hand presents the fruits of that labor.

This is challenging music of an avant sort. It combines textured soundscapes, collective soloing and worked-out sequences that have a post-Braxtonian edginess at times.

No single instrumentalist is meant to dominate the proceedings. Instead a great variety of instrumental combinations come in and out of play more or less continuously.

It’s a fascinating, successful, large-scale new music recital where the jazz and open elements combine and create a sonically rich result. It may not be a masterpiece of the new music, but it most certainly makes for a welcome addition to the scattering of existing works of its kind. Well worth a hearing if you follow the latest developments in the improv/new music nexus. — Grego Applegate Edwards,   Gapplegate Music Review



Having upped the number of   musicians involved as well as the scope of his creative strategies, the newest orchestral work by American guitarist Scott Fields involves 23 players — plus him conducting — interpreting one, nearly-14-minute, and another four-part, hour-long composition. The result, recorded live in the guitarist’s adopted hometown of Köln, is satisfyingly striking, with the proviso that subsequent performances likely sounded different, considering that that the unique physical gestures used by Fields and the musicians to communicate are drawn from the American Manual Alphabet.

Chicago-born Fields, who has recorded extensively over the past three decades in configurations ranging from duets with fellow guitarists Elliott Sharp and Jeff Parker to any number of combos, has gathered some of Köln’s most-accomplished players here, many as whom are as experienced in contemporary notated music as Jazz. Among the best-known improv-wise are saxophonists Frank Gratkowski and Matthias Schubert, tubaist Carl Ludwig Hübsch, pianist Philip Zoubek and Thomas Lehn who manipulates electronics. At the same time, players from the word of composition interpretation such as flautist Angelica Sheridan bring their unique talents to the interface.

Lehn’s clicking and clanking oscillations, amplified by the computer work of Marion Wörle and Eva Pöpplein create the wavering cross tones which combine with acoustic instruments’ legato tones on “Moersbow”. Played as quietly as possible, in sharp contrast to the excessive fortissimo crunches produced by Merzbow, the Japanese noise musician after whom the piece is named, widened flute obbligatos, muted and discursive trumpet solos from Udo Moll or Matthias Mainz plus high-frequency chording from the pianist keep the salute bubbling at the mid-point between inchoate and invention.

“OZZO 1-4” is even more polyphonic and multi-tonal, with the variations encompassing every manner of pastoral and abrasive leitmotif, especially in the over-30 minute first section. With processed squeaks and voltage pops from the electronics frequently underscoring the narrative, the contrapuntal evolution includes exchanges among sul ponticello strings, a brassy lead trumpet, split tones and irregular vibrations from the reeds, and stop-time yet stentorian thumps from percussionist Christian Thomés. Meanwhile Florian Standler’s accordion flutters flit among the solid textures. Twittering and stuttering alto saxophone squeaks are framed by chromatic brass harmonies, while the flute work of Sheridan and Michael Heupel ranges from gentle to staccato. More than pedal-point time-markers, the tubas of Hübsch and Melvyn Poore are put to more extensive use with contrapuntal displays of brass beats as well as elaborating sequences divided among the two, the accordion and Tang’s walking bass. Before the first section’s climax is defined by embellished linear string motion, vibist Tom Lorenz and tenor saxophonist Matthias Schubert duet on one theme variant which oozes “OZZO” closest to the standard Jazz form.

Alternating tutti and individual theme elaborations, the last section weaves strings, brass, saxophone splutters, pitch-sliding flute lines, clip-clop drumming and some computer pulsations to reach an almost tonic finale. With multiphonic contributions from a nearly all the players appear sequentially, the finale is almost pseudo-romantic.

While the particular circumstances under which the Multiple Joyce Orchestra interpreted Fields’ compositions may alter next time around, this CD is proof that the American’s skills as a composer as well as a guitarist continue to mature imaginatively. — Ken Waxman,   Jazzword



Le guitariste américain Scott Fields   faisait partie de la première fournée de disques Clean Feed présentés sur notre site en 2008. Il délaisse ici les cordes pour tenir la baguette et diriger, à Cologne, haut lieu des musiques contemporaines et électroacoustiques, un grand orchestre, sorte de master class qui s’appuie largement sur le James Choice Orchestra, baptisé ici le Multiple Joyce Orchestra (d’où MJQ sur la tranche du digipak!). Il ne s’agit pas d’un big band selon la formation habituelle, mais un assemblage d’instruments divers permettant la plus large palette possible. Ainsi les instruments électroniques sont-ils au premier plan dans Moersbow, pièce qui se déplace en nappes sonores, dédiée au compositeur électronique japonais Merzbow. Mais c’est OZZO, longue composition/proposition en quatre parties d’inégales longueurs, qui occupe l’essentiel du disque. Cette æuvre, qui oscille entre la free music improvisée et la musique contemporaine occidentale, provoque nombre de circulations, flux et reflux, tensions et détentes, passages et superpositions d’instruments. Pas de tempos à proprement parler, mais des interventions instrumentales qui apportent un caractère de jazzité à l’ensemble. Pour cela, Fields s’est appuyé sur quelques solistes réputés, comme les saxophonistes Frank Gratkowski et Matthias Schubert, son partenaire habituel, ou le tubiste Carl Ludwig Hübsch.

Au total, une musique complexe, chiadée et raffinée, contrastée et souvent délicate et aérienne (forte présence des flûtes, par exemple), qui peut laisser froid l’amateur de jazz, mais que les auditeurs curieux et sensibles aux musiques contemporaines sauront apprécier. — Jean Buzelin,   Culture Jazz



A Cologne, Scott Fields dirige   un ensemble de vingt-quatre musiciens (dont font partie Frank Gratkowski, Carl Ludwig Hübsch, Thomas Lehn, Matthias Schubert) et argumente sa conduction d’une fluidité exemplaire.

Ici, continuité et exploration d’une texture contenue (Moersbow en hommage à Merzbow) ; ailleurs, séparation des cuivres et des cordes avant réunion ténébreuse des deux entités ; plus loin, percées solitaires et retrouvailles en forme d’unissons salvateurs. Et dans tous les cas de figures, une justesse de ton et de forme ne s’encombrant d’aucune démonstration de force ou de virtuosité inutile. — Luc Bouquet,   Le Son du Grisli



Scott Fields apresenta-nos duas obras   distintas num só álbum. Na primeira faixa, de homenagem ao mestre do noise japonês Merzbow, conhecido por criar barulho a volumes extremos (pegue-se em “Green Wheels”, por exemplo), o compositor e guitarrista pede o oposto aos seus músicos: tocar o mais baixo possível. As três faixas seguintes constituem uma peça intitulada “OZZO”, a terceira de uma série de composições modulares para orquestras de câmara, no seguimento de “48 Motives” (1996) e “96 Gestures” (2001).

O trabalho da orquestra de 25 músicos equivale ao dos ensembles electroacústicos que têm sido editados pela Psi Records, a ECM e a hatOLOGY, desde Wolfgang Mitterer a Evan Parker, apesar de esta ser uma música bastante menos espectral do que a do Electro-Acoustic Ensemble do segundo. Não sem falhas: embora seja de louvar a inclusão de instrumentos como o acordeão, pouco usuais na música contemporânea escrita e na improvisada (Andrea Parkins é uma de poucas excepções), as suas intervenções deixam por vezes bastante a desejar, sendo até de gosto duvidoso, em parte porque o timbre parece insistir em não se colar com o resto dos instrumentos.

Algumas passagens de “OZZO” ganham um poder cinemático, parecendo a banda sonora de filmes expressionistas alemães (trata-se de momentos curtos, favorecendo uma espécie de desconstrução constante da melodia), ou apresentam influências da música clássica, a ponto de desvanecer as fronteiras com uma idiomática do jazz, que se encontra bastante presente no trabalho de Fields. four stars — Pedro Sousa,   Jazz.pt





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