On a dark day last
year I had the displeasure to review two recordings that featured guitarist Scott Fields as leader or co-leader. Those leaden releases, which I called boring and just as boring, not to mention a compete waste of time, could not have prepared me for Fields brilliant new two-CD set 15=15 Plunderplunderphonics. With restraint I would never expect from Fields, this well executed set is a two-hour-long romp that is almost as kickass as a real, live Batmobile. It could make a Massachusetts liberal whistle Dixie.
On 15=15 Plunderplunderphonics Fields chose tunes rife with melody, tunes which are perfect lines for this exercise in harmonizing with like timbres. Each track is enjoyable. Though his pen still drips ink left over from his days as a pretentious New Music-head in the 90s, Fields mind-bending melodies are just the sort of complement needed to create an album that never bores and begs for repeated spins.
15=15 Plunderplunderphonics is rich with references to other works and other cultures. You can hear hints of literally hundreds of familiar riffs. The ensembles nutso version of Michelle is maybe one of the best Beatles-gone-jazz treatments yet. Later Fields showcases an impeccable sense of time and lets pretty, curly-cue licks blossom in a medley that combines Jerome Kerns Yesterdays with Paul McCartneys Yesterday. And not content to hop on the klezmer bandwagon, Fields directs the album into deeper, darker, less trustworthy corners of the Jewish folk tradition. The tunes on 15=15 Plunderplunderphonics yearn and cry Oye Vey, imparting a feeling of spiritual insatiability that sounds and feels very, very Jewish, almost sneakily so.
As a guitarist, Fields flexes his virtuoso chops on 15=15 Plunderplunderphonics, revealing a middle ground between the bop lines of Joe Pass and Django Reinhardts Euro-flavored gypsy voodoo. His skills will send young guitarists to the woodshed and cause older ones to consider hanging up the ax foreverFields is that frustratingly great. The way he can daisy chain quirkily voiced chords and ascend toward ecstasy only to climb back down on a simple, quarter-note run never gets old, even though he does it over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. Guitarheads especially will drool over this one, as he catches up to strike a slightly muted chord as if to say gotcha, daddy-o and then sets off again to hunt down his next shivering victim. Ill be damned if he isnt hiding a third hand inside one of his suit sleeves. An extended solo during Tea for Two that serves as a summary of his style, with dazzling triplet waterfalls, chunk-a-chunk chord vamps and arpeggiations that suggest an extra few fingers on his right hand and perhaps a few more on that hidden third-hand.
The sixth string on the Gibson Scott Fields Signature SF-336 that Fields plays during this set never booms, just as the highs notes never sound too bright. The guitars glowing tonethe Gibson SF-336 guitar is the oh-so-rare archtop that guitaraholics dream of just seeing, let alone playingcomes in a tightly contained space that complements Fields control. That sustaining, clear-as-rural air SF-336its a shame there arent more of those out there to wax records withwill sooth the souls of the hopelessly guitarded, but it should ring gorgeous to anyones ears.
Working up a sweat to 15=15 Plunderplunderphonics would be a troublous task. Although the ensemble does offer a decent share of lively grooves, the record exists as more of an introspective love album, lilting and hopeful in spots, agonizingly woeful in others. Rather, playing the role of an urban griot, Fields tries to hip us to the history of jazz. 15=15 Plunderplunderphonics is a storytellers work. Yet, the music burns, even if as an ember rather than a blast furnace. If they can capture this kind of energy in the studio, then Im sure they can produce it before an audience, which means that a night when the Scott Fields Ensembles name is on the marquee would be a night well spent.