Cloistered in Wisconsin, guitarist Scott Fields devises new ways of structuring improvisation. In a string of unjustly overlooked CDs, he’s experimented with groups of varying configurations. This incarnation of Fields’ ensemble is a good introduction to his music, in part because it showcases his thoughtful, probing guitar solos in a trio setting. Inspired by playwright David Mamet, this project uses the atmospheres, dramatic interactions and texts from five plays to guide the soloists. Fields goes so far as to incorporate Mamet’s dialogue into his instrumental scores, and to assign dramatic roles to each musician. The strategy demands, and obtains, expressive, “vocal” performances from bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Michael Zerang.
On “The Woods,” listen to the give-and-take between Fields’ guitar and Formanek’s bass, which voice the female and male “leads,” respectively. Fields’ guitar solos pass through a pleading blues twang to sputtering anger, culminating in howls of anguish. Without in-depth knowledge of the plays or the scores, it’s impossible to assess how closely the trio captures the meaning or rhythms of Mamet’s dialogue. The performances are so good that it shouldn’t matter. four stars! — Downbeat