scott fields

Scott Fields, musician

Song Songs Song

Blistering, ferocious, harsh, abrasive, confrontational—quite often, the adjectives that are typically used to describe death metal, grindcore and metalcore have also been used to describe the more militant side of free jazz. Charles Gayle and post-1965 John Coltrane—two examples of avant-garde jazz taken to a brutal extreme—are not for the faint of heart any more than Slayer or Cannibal Corpse. In fact, some of Coltrane’s most devoted fans have a hard time comprehending his post-1965 work. But the AACM has, on numerous occasions, demonstrated that not all avant-garde jazz favors a take-no-prisoners aesthetic, and Song Songs Song easily represents that kinder, gentler school of outside playing. This 2004 date, which finds Jeff Parker and Scott Fields joining forces for a two-guitar duet, is not about in-your-face confrontation; instead, the guitarists favor a pensive, reflective approach to outside playing. Song Songs Song is far from a straightahead bop album; the performances are as abstract and cerebral as they are spacy and eerie. But they aren’t harsh or militant by any means; nor are they dense. While extreme density can give Gayle and post-1965 Coltrane—or, for that matter, Slayer’s death metal—a claustrophobic quality, Parker and Fields thrive on the use of space. Instead of trying to cram as many notes as possible into a solo, they choose their notes in a more careful, deliberate fashion. That isn’t to say that the two guitarists don’t improvise; improvisation and spontaneity are a major part of what they do on Song Songs Song. But it’s a thoughtful spontaneity—a thoughtful way of exploring the abstract and the intellectual. Admirers of the AACM school of outside expression will find a lot to like about the dialogue that Parker and Fields enjoy on Song Songs Song. 3½ stars — All Music Guide


Arguably the Anthony Braxton of the guitar, Scott Fields is among avant-garde jazz’s unsung innovators. The guitarist, now based in Madison, WI, was part of the Chicago avant-garde jazz scene during the 60s and ’70s and, much like Larry Young brought modal post-bop to the organ, Fields’ guitar playing was influenced by the pioneering work of Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM). An improviser as important as Fields should have a huge catalog but, regrettably, the electric guitarist has only recorded sporadically over the years. Recorded in 2000 and released in 2001, Mamet finds him putting his spin on the works of playwright David Mamet. Although there are no words or lyrics, Fields was thinking of Mamet’s plays when he composed instrumentals like “Oleanna,” “The Woods,” and “American Buffalo.” But one doesn’t have to be an expert on Mamet’s work to appreciate this excellent release. And, for that matter, being a lover of Mamet’s plays doesn’t guarantee that you will love Fields’ Mamet CD (which employs Michael Formanek on acoustic bass and Michael Zerang on drums). Ultimately, the thing that will determine whether or not you find Mamet meaningful is how much you appreciate and comprehend outside improvisation. If you’re an admirer of fearless AACM explorers like Anthony Braxton, Lester Bowie, and Roscoe Mitchell, you owe it to yourself to hear Mamet — a CD that is enthusiastically recommended to anyone with a taste for AACM-style avant-garde jazz. —  All Music Guide