Song Songs Song
Although we are told that first impressions are usually correct (the “go with your gut” approach), the liner notes for this release nearly derailed my enjoyment of the music. The notes, such as they are, were written by Fields and consist of a stream-of-consciousness collection of words and phrases in a postmodern style full of in-jokes and self-references, but also a lot of information if you stay with them (including a somewhat snide reference to Kali Fasteau, who does not even know Fields). Some of them are funny, even witty, and Fields actually makes a mistake (“Hendrix’s flat nines” [the Foxy Lady chord] is really a sharp nine), but one phrase is repeated quite a few times: “pitch and timbre over time.”
Boiled down, then, that phrase is exactly what this music is about. Fields gives some more hints, bolding and capitalizing the words melody, harmony, orchestration, rhythm, morphology, taxonomy, and osmosis, which are sprinkled through the notes. The title of the album Song Songs Songprobably refers to the fact that tracks 1 and 6 are credited to Parker and tracks 2 through 5 to Fields. After a few close listens, one can easily hear motives or phrases, if not melody, that are presented, passed back and forth and developed, textures that thicken and thin, sound types that range from harmonics to severe distortion, slowly played sections next to ones with speedy runs, free rhythm juxtaposed against straight time.
Neither player can be called a traditional guitar player on this release, but Parker (left channel) is definitely the more lyrical and sentimental—“LK 92” has a very strong and (dare I say) pretty melody with a poignant secondary answering phrase; and “The Fields of Cologne” has an atmospheric “Frenchness” about it that draws one in, plus it has a definite quote from a jazz standard. Fields is much more in your face (note the song titles), and gets more “out there” sounds from his guitar, which come from the world of electronics and stomp boxes, sometimes scraping and pulling the strings (a picture shows him using a violin bow on his strings), sometimes using the volume knob to swell whatever distortion or feedback he is getting at the moment, and hence comes across as more experimental (despite the fact that there are obvious motivic figures), but always in control.
There is a certain messiness about the fast playing, but that might also be purposeful. I also have no idea how the players communicated their intentions to each other; how much was written out or how much was musical or visual cues. The tunes many times just trickle out, so unless you listen intently, where one track ends and another begins might be missed.
In sum, after a rough start, this album grew on me, and might be a winner for those who like to hear instruments pushed to the extreme, but within audible frameworks. — All About Jazz