Bitter Love Songs
Guitarist, sort of Chicago’s answer to Derek Bailey, although I wouldn’t swear on that, since for me one of the main things they have in common is that I’ve never made much sense out of either. This is a trio, recorded in Germany, with Sebastian Gramss on double bass and João Lobo on drums. Title isn’t obviously reflected in the music, but it sure is in the song titles: “Yea, sure, we can still be friends, whatever;” “Go ahead, take the furniture, at least you helped pick it out;” “My love is love, your love is hate;” “Your parents must be just ecstatic now;” “I was good enough for you until your friends butted in;” “You used to say I love you but so what now.” Liner notes hit even harder. Not sure where the music comes from — sublimated anger? — but it seems uncommonly focused, for once.
I’ve played this record a lot on the road the last month, and it’s never let me down. The avant-guitarist has a tendency elsewhere to diddle in abstractions, but he plays with remarkable logic here — bitterness must focus the mind. The Freetet adds bass and drums, bulking up the sound and punctuating the emotions. (A-) — tomhull.com
Chicago guitarist, has a couple dozen albums since 1993, of which this original 1995 recording was his second, brought back on a new label. Group wobbles between Matt Turner on cello and Robert Stright on vibes, the former slowing things down and sapping them up, the latter bristling with energy. Group also includes bass and percussion. Fields has some very nice runs, and the vibes are terrific. (B+) — tomhull.com
Guitar/tenor sax duo. Guitarist Fields has a couple dozen albums back to 1993. Schubert has four albums since 1992, including the well-regarded Blue and Grey Suite from 1994. They previously played together on Fields’ 2006 album Beckett. They're careful here to match up their tones, so you get close listening and interaction, even balance. Does run on rather long. (B+) — tomhull.com
Guitarist, from Chicago, has a couple dozen albums since 1993, about as close as anyone to being an American analog to Derek Bailey. Doesn’t play here; instead conducts MJO through a 13:54 piece dedicated to Merzbow and the much-longer 4-part “OZZO.” MJO was founded in 2008 by Frank Gratkowski (alto sax), Carl Ludwig Hübsch (tuba), and Matthias Schubert (tenor sax), with 24 members credited here — a little bit of everything (except guitar), including computer and analog electronics. Has that scratchy, abstract feel, but is rarely without interest, and more pleasing than anyone would expect. (B+) — tomhull.com
Five Frozen Eggs
Avant guitarist, b. 1946, based in Chicago, has about twenty albums since 1993, several of which have been picked up and reissued by Clean Feed. Seems like most are cranky solo affairs, but some aren’t, and this one is dominated by Marilyn Crispell’s piano, at her iciest, creating fractured landscapes that Fields, bassist Hans Sturm, and drummer Hamid Drake trek through. — B+, three stars. — tomhull.com