Music for the Radio Program "This American Life"
The bassist here, Sebastian Gramss, featured on Das Mollsche Gesetz’s Catalogue Of Improvisation, which I reviewed in The Wire 303. DMG’s improvisations follow two rules: no piece should last more than 60 seconds, and each should be followed by a pause of the same duration as the music. In contrast, Scott Fields allows the musicians to stretch out, and all five tracks last around a quarter-hour. With a line-up like this (electric guitar, cello, bass, drums), the label “chamber jazz” always hovers menacingly, but it is not particularly helpful as shorthand. Fields and co produce thoughtful music, but not unduly cerebral, dry or cautious — the improvisations are adventurous, constantly engaging and often passionate. The last Fields album I heard, Dénouement (Clean Feed) took more than a decade to get a proper release. Fortunately, this very impressive session has taken only a year to escape. Incidentally, This American Life is a Chicago Public Radio show that its producers describe as “movies for the radio,” and if this CD is anything to go by, it must be addictive listening. — The Wire
This session, featuring two trios of guitar, bass and drums, was cut in December 1997. Chicago based guitarist Scott Fields hawked the recording around for two years, and the labels that bit either backed out or went broke. In desperation he pressed some copies and issued them through his own short-lived label, called Geode.
It would have been easy for the members of the twin trios to get locked into some kind of contest, but Fields chose colleagues aware and willing enough to co-operate rather than compete, and the two winds of the ensemble dovetail superbly into an integrated unit. Fields’s co-guitarist is Jeff Parker, the bassists are Jason Roebke and Hans Sturm, the drummers Michael Zerang and Hamid Drake: it would be hard to distinguish them in a blindfold test, as the players echo, interweave (and listen to) each other with considerable subtlety.
For the session, Fields devised related but dissimilar pitch sets for the two trios, and specified time signatures equal in length but divided differently. If this suggests the music is dry, it isn’t though it is often contemplative and a little opaque. Those, and there seem to be many, who hated Jeff Parker’s sometime gig in Tortoise and the 2005 Fields/Parker collaboration Song Songs Song (Delmark) are perhaps unlikely to connect with Dénouement, but for my ten cents it’s inventive and consistently engaging. — The Wire