scott fields

Scott Fields, musician

Samuel

Scott Fields’ music prompts questions, usually quickly: Where’s the line between the bold conceptions and the meticulous execution? Between the composer and the improviser? Between the jazz and what’s beyond category? Much to the guitarist’s credit, the answers are almost always elusive, as is the case with Samuel, Fields’ second collection of compositions drawn from the texts of Samuel Beckett. Given that, as measured in discographical time, the album comes on the heels of Beckett — the 2006 Clean Feed collection also featuring Fields’ quartet with tenor saxophonist Matthias Schubert, cellist Scott Roller and percussionist John Hollenbeck — spinning this more innocuously titled album without making the connection is not surprising. The music is sufficiently compelling to initially keep the booklet with Dan Warburton’s informative notes off to the side. The quartet has an incisive bead on the material; their ensembles are bristling; and their ability to sustain the finely calibrated development of the materials in three contrasting pieces of 20 to 25 minutes in duration reflects an exemplary, collectively honed discipline. Sure, knowing Fields painstakingly ascribed pitch and duration values to Beckett’s texts facilitates a fuller reception of the work; yet, it is not required to dig the jagged and jangling materials. It certainly explains the ensemble’s aversion to lustrous decay; in conveying the bluntness of expression fundamental to Beckett’s texts, their dampened attack and clipped phrases establishes a temperamental continuity that is as essential to the music as adherence to the scores and the parameters for improvisation. This tints materials that would otherwise be more easily compared to the graying generation of Midwestern structuralist composers (although Fields has lived in Cologne since 2003, Chicago is still discernable in his music). Still, the ensemble’s fastidiousness in articulating Fields’ compositions does not diminish the individualism of the players; on the contrary, these are among the more engaging performances to date by Fields himself and by Schubert and Hollenbeck, the more widely documented of his cohorts (the guitarist-like dexterity of Roller’s pizzicato always prompts a desire to hear more). This is another significant recording by Fields. — Point of Departure