For guitarist Scott Fields, an ensemble is more about a strategy for organizing improvisations than it is about putting together specific long-term groups. Past ensembles have consisted of anywhere from three to a dozen players with a revolving cast. For this incarnation, Fields pairs up with Vancouver stalwarts, Peggy Lee and Dylan can der Schyff. These two have been working together in a variety of contexts for a decade now (in addition to being married) and have developed near-telepathic abilities. They are well versed in approaching improvisation with a total disregard for stylistic lines. Free improvisation nudges up against Jazz heads while being crossed with rock torrents; prickly abstraction and simple melodies intersect. They provide strong partners for Fields, who has developed a like-minded approach in creating compositional forms for spontaneous interaction. The session starts out with quiet, measured counterpoint as Lees dark arco spins lines against Fields’ slashing smears and van der Schyff’s pointillistic punctuations. But quickly, things build to a fierce energy Raucous guitar runs spill out like searing horn lines while cello and drums stir up churning waves that crash along with an infectious momentum. Then, suddenly, the storm breaks to an open free section with the three spinning arcing lines that careen off of each other. And that is just the first piece!
But what could be sheer mayhem or noodling in lesser hands holds together. The three build dynamic improvisations with acutely attuned senses of structure. Fields’ compositional forms provide the framework for the pieces, but it is clear that Lee and van der Schyff are full coconspirators. Angular thematic threads appear and then get pulled, prodded, and toyed with, disappearing into collective flurries only to reemerge again in a slightly morphed guise. Rather than defy expected musical roles, the trio ignores them altogether. Lines are just as likely to be sparked from tuned drum lines as they are from the guitar; Lee may jump up to the upper ranges of the cello while Fields dives down to resounding bass notes only to flip moments later. By the time the three reach the final piece, which builds with a stately tension and then resolves with a achingly beautiful arco cello melody, a sense of completion is achieved. Those looking for a representative release to dive into Scott Fields’ music needn’t bother. Each release reveals a new wrinkle to his expansive musical view, and this, in no small part due to his ensemble members, is one of the strongest yet. — Cadence Magazine
On the surface, this is probably the most conventional instrumentation that Fields has used for one of his ensembles. But like a director casting a play, he has carefully chosen his co-conspirators. Formanek is a fantastically inventive bass player. He is on equal footing throughout; flexibly adjusting his playing and interaction to the flow of the piece. At times he is the aggressive lead voice, at others a dynamic sparring partner for Fields. His resonating plucked lines and booming arco fill out what might otherwise be a spare setting. Zerang is a colorist, setting the timbres and textures for the dialog of bass and guitar. This in no way suggests that he is relegated to a supporting role. Instead, he fills out the ensemble with his limber, pointillistic percussion; moving from pinpoint attack to pummeling cascades to propel the improvisations. Fields has a quirky sound, shaping his lines with clean intonation and angular intervalic jumps, at times filled out with a subtle use of real-time sampling to layer multiple lines. The three players use the compositional framework as a motivic framework for elastic interaction full of finely detailed interplay. Quiet, intensely abstract lyricism can lead to thorny, clashing thunder. If one is familiar with the way that Mamet constructs his dialogs and uses tension and release in the development of his plays, it is possible to discern those influences. Though it provides an intriguing layer, it is hardly essential to hearing what is going on here. Instead, Fields has used the sources to create compositional frameworks for open-form improvisation. Even without the knowledge of the underlying basis for the pieces, this trio music is a compelling example of probing group interchange. — Cadence Magazine