While the sardonic album title alludes to a session fraught with rancorous despair, guitarist Scott Fields' Bitter Love Songs
is, perhaps ironically, one of his most accessible efforts. Born in Chicago, but now based in Cologne, Germany, Fields recorded this date in his new home town with German bassist Sebastian Gramss and Portuguese drummer Joao Lobo. An iconoclast who favors unusual instrumental combinations, this is his first guitar trio recording since Mamet
(Delmark, 2001), with bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Michael Zerang.
In the scathing liner notes Fields explains that the unsettled themes, fitful rhythms and grating dissonances elicited by the trio are intended to invoke the nerve-wracking nausea that accompanies the impending dissolution of romance. While all of these traits are present, they are often fairly subtle; in contrast to his exotic conceptual projects, this loose trio session is actually somewhat conventional.
With Fields as the principle soloist, Gramss and Lobo follow the guitarist's lead, providing stirring rhythmic accompaniment that vacillates in tempo from casual to frantic. The majority of the tunes saunter at a buoyant mid-tempo clip with periods of intermittent turbulence. Occasionally reaching a fevered pitch, but never boiling over, the trio generates a more agreeable mood than one would expect from such song titles as "My Love Is Love, Your Love Is Hate" and "Your Parents Must Be Just Ecstatic Now." Only "I Was Good Enough for You Until Your Friends Butted In" breaks form with a languorous abstract blues.
A proponent of structured improvisation based on tone row manipulation, Fields conveys his enigmatic statements with focused intensity. He fires rapid salvoes of knotty linear cadences at regular staccato intervals from his clean-toned hollow body. At his most feverish, he conjures blistering chromatic note clusters as he scuttles across his fretboard. Together, Gramss' elastic walking bass patterns, Lobo's shuffling trap set ruminations and Fields' thorny commentary coil into a kaleidoscopic mosaic of expressionistic interplay.
Despite the derisive title, Bitter Love Songs is a compelling example of modern jazz guitar improvisation supported by an empathetic rhythm section. For aficionados of unfettered guitar traditions, this is essential listening.
Personnel: Scott Fields: electric guitar; Sebastian Gramss: bass; Joao Lobo: drums.