scott fields

Scott Fields, musician


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. — Point of Departure