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Scott Fields is an electric   guitarist who can go for the jugular while shouldering same fairly hefty conceptual baggage. His squally eruptions on This That suggest an intelligent and ironic man giving vent to seething anger and frustration. But this trio recording in the sympathetic company of cellist Peggy Lee and drummer Dylan van der Schyff is by no means all spleen. Much of the album has a probing feel, quietly teasing apart modest phrases and motifs that are firmly established at the start then continuously revised and elaborated. The three players circle around the core material kneading and tugging until it has stretched into a piece that can be called “This is This,” “That is This,” or “That is That.” The reversible titles accurately reflect music that seems conclusive but is primed to unravel in order to begin again. Despite the assertive tone, nothing is ever definitively stated because it can always be said otherwise, as in all successful improvising. — Julian Cowley,   The Wire



Guitarist Scott Fields grew up   in the Hyde Park area of Chicago’s Southside, the very turf that birthed the AACM, and his Ensemble—a floating collective that over the years has included such luminaries as cornetist Rob Mazurek, percussionist Michael Zerang and guitarist Jeff Parker—is named in tribute to The Art Ensemble Of Chicago. This That is a heavy trio session, pairing Fields with cellist Peggy Lee and drummer Dylan Van Der Schyff, and it’s even better than Mamet, his extraordinary tribute to the plays of David Mamet that surfaced earlier this year. Whereas that was a subtle, conversational work, This That finds Fields tossing off manic proto-Metal flurries that land somewhere between the early motorpsycho extremities of guitarist Makoto Kawabata’s work with Musica Transonic and the heavy melodic strong work of free jazz guitarist Tisziji Muñoz. Cello and drums provide a skewered counterpoint, pirouetting around the margins as Fields channels straight through the heart. — David Keenan,   The Wire



What is Scott Fields’s fallacious   mind ever possessed him to misuse, nay abuse, one of jazz’s greatest torch singers? Why tarnish her legacy with no greater goal than to nail a “big name” to his star-starved shingle? Regardless of how addled Peggy Lee has become, how advanced her Alzheimer’s disease, how confused and helpless she is in her current condition, there is no excuse for exploiting her fantasies as a jazz violoncellist. Whatever her promise must have been as a schoolgirl cellist in the early days of the horseless carriage, it is just too late, far too late, to rekindle those long lost evenings spent caressing catgut and rosin. All of that said, it is remarkable how well Ms. Lee manages the aforementioned violin, extra-value-meal size. Her intonation is as sharp as a coffin nail. The tremors in her hand shake loose a delicious vibrato. Her tone is as rich and well-aged as the grand dame herself. Her staccato strings snap like “Fever.” But still the essence of Ms. Lee has wafted away, diluted by too many cheap whiskeys and bummed cigarettes. Where is the swing? Where are the walking bass lines? (Do her high heels and satiny slit dresses make it impossible to lay down a respectable cello walk?) Where are the clever quotes from her many hits and the jazz standards with which she became so familiar in a million venues from faceless dives with beer-soaked stages to the very Tonight Show with Johnny Carson?

Fields rubs in her dementia by naming all of the “compositions” on This That some combination of “This” and “That.” “This is That.” “This is This.” “This isn’t That.” My God man! Isn’t it enough to humiliate this once-proud Jazz Artist (don’t you wish that you could say the same of yourself?) without demonstrating that she longer can distinguish this from that? The shame! Dylan van der Schyff (drums) also “contributes” to this travesty. — Hugh Jarrid,   Swingin’ Thing Magazine



For guitarist Scott Fields, an   ensemble is more about a strategy for organizing improvisations than it is about putting together specific long-term groups. Past ensembles have consisted of anywhere from three to a dozen players with a revolving cast. For this incarnation, Fields pairs up with Vancouver stalwarts, Peggy Lee and Dylan can der Schyff. These two have been working together in a variety of contexts for a decade now (in addition to being married) and have developed near-telepathic abilities. They are well versed in approaching improvisation with a total disregard for stylistic lines. Free improvisation nudges up against Jazz heads while being crossed with rock torrents; prickly abstraction and simple melodies intersect. They provide strong partners for Fields, who has developed a like-minded approach in creating compositional forms for spontaneous interaction. The session starts out with quiet, measured counterpoint as Lees dark arco spins lines against Fields’ slashing smears and van der Schyff’s pointillistic punctuations. But quickly, things build to a fierce energy Raucous guitar runs spill out like searing horn lines while cello and drums stir up churning waves that crash along with an infectious momentum. Then, suddenly, the storm breaks to an open free section with the three spinning arcing lines that careen off of each other. And that is just the first piece!

But what could be sheer mayhem or noodling in lesser hands holds together. The three build dynamic improvisations with acutely attuned senses of structure. Fields’ compositional forms provide the framework for the pieces, but it is clear that Lee and van der Schyff are full coconspirators. Angular thematic threads appear and then get pulled, prodded, and toyed with, disappearing into collective flurries only to reemerge again in a slightly morphed guise. Rather than defy expected musical roles, the trio ignores them altogether. Lines are just as likely to be sparked from tuned drum lines as they are from the guitar; Lee may jump up to the upper ranges of the cello while Fields dives down to resounding bass notes only to flip moments later. By the time the three reach the final piece, which builds with a stately tension and then resolves with a achingly beautiful arco cello melody, a sense of completion is achieved. Those looking for a representative release to dive into Scott Fields’ music needn’t bother. Each release reveals a new wrinkle to his expansive musical view, and this, in no small part due to his ensemble members, is one of the strongest yet. —Michael Rosenstein,   Cadence Magazine



First of all, This That   is an unlikely release for the San Diego-based avant-garde label Accretions, because Scott Fields has no ties with the “Trummerflora Collective.” That being said, label director Marcos Fernandes took a wise decision to release this very strong CD. For this studio recording, the Scott Fields Ensemble was a trio, cellist Peggy Lee and drummer Dylan van der Schyff (both from Vancouver, Canada) following the guitarist in a series of structured improvisations. This match-up proves to be particularly successful. Lee and Schyff know each other by heart, their chemistry has reached a commanding level. Moreover, Fields’ loose compositions and penned-down segments are stylistically closely related to the projects they were involved with during the 1990s, from Talking Pictures to François Houle and Tony Wilson’s groups. So This That ends up sounding like a cousin of the Vancouver avant-garde jazz scene. Some of these tracks follow specific contrasts, textures, or structures, while others have written heads. But the compositional work usually remains seamless (except for the obvious tutti lines). Fields is in very good shape. His dislocated melodies find a sympathetic soul in Lee’s lyrical cello playing in “That Isn’t This.” In “This Isn’t That” he throws in an impressive solo. This That may not have a star-studded line-up like Five Frozen Eggs (with Marilyn Crispell and Hamid Drake), but it sure delivers the goods — and if you have never heard the free improv unit of Lee and Schyff, this is your chance. Strongly recommended. — François Couture,   All Music Guide



Interactive empathy marks the intricate   trio session of Scott Fields and his association with cellist Peggy Lee and drummer/husband Dylan van der Schyff. Electrified blurs of blue light pass before one’s eyes as Fields ignites the soundstage with his rapid-fire style of execution. This would appear to pose quite a challenge for most musicians, but Lee and van der Schyff immediately jump into the furor and produce explosive fury of their own. While Fields is burning the countryside with his scorched earth policy, Lee furiously bows her cello and van der Schyff adds incendiary stimulus to fan the flames. Then just as quickly, the trio slows things down with sensitive, near melodic phrasing and quiet tones. Fields delicately plucks the strings in single-note rotation and van der Schyff uses soft, brushed tones for accent while Lee establishes lines more closely associated with a bassist. The contrast in the trio’s temperament, which alternates with regularity, is stimulating.

Fields shows that he is able to handle both sides of this Jekyll/Hyde coin masterfully by pouring out waves of electric colors ranging from calming green to disruptive red. His lyrical statements are built on delicately improvised lines that lull one into a sense of false security before he again explodes and fully uproots the quietude. Lee is highly motivated on this date, using the bow aggressively to tame the instrument through a series of wildly pronounced skirmishes. Her buildup of tension and ultimate release is exceptionally well executed. The touch of van der Schyff is ever changing as he responds to these varying mood swings. He moves adeptly from pastel yellows to dark browns to match the existing mood of the group. What is most evident with this trio, however, is its skill at listening. The three act/react to each other and intertwine creative landscapes onto an ever-changing topography to forge a kaleidoscope of varying tones and textures.

Fields wrote all eight selections, but the line between previously and instantly composed is blurred. The musicians launch as a unit from the short themes and jointly reinvent their orbit. This That is challenging music with multiple rewards emanating from its group dynamic. It requires close concentration to appreciate all the subtle nuances, but with a disciplined attitude, full appreciation can be realized. — Frank Rubolino,   One Final Note