Scott Fields Ensemble: Denouement (2007)
Chicago-based guitarist Scott Fields most successful projects, such as Mamet (Delmark, 2001), and Beckett (Clean Feed, 2007), offer a novel merger of structured improvisation inspired by literary sources, this album included. Recorded in 1997 and previously available only on Fields' own tiny Geode label, this session sat dormant for ten years before this Clean Feed reissue.
Denouement features a unique double ensemble; two electric guitar trios playing in tandem, but rarely in unison. In 1997, Fields' working trio consisted of bassist Hans Sturm and drummer Hamid Drake. Fellow Midwesterners, bassist Jason Roebke and drummer Michael Zerang pilot the second trio with guitarist Jeff Parker. Five years before his solo debut, Like-Coping (Delmark, 2003), Parker demonstrates the lyrical finesse and adventurous risk-taking that has brought him acclaim as part of the new Chicago scene.
Using multiple pitch sets and compound rhythmic figures to create an off-kilter sensibility, Fields creates a complex mosaic of contrapuntal lines and cross-rhythms. Modulating dynamics with nuance and relaxed pacing, the ensemble meanders from austere chamber-esque duets exploring pointillist dialogue to dense collective passages that unfurl knotty tendrils of abstruse commentary fueled by angular, interlocking rhythms. To his credit, these layered compositions feel unforced, belying their structural intricacy.
Intertwining with graceful subtlety, the two trios navigate similar paths without drifting in cacophonous discourse. Drake and Zerang's elastic rhythms skirt between skittering harmonic accents and fulminating energy, while Roebke and Sturm occasionally alternate techniques, bowing fractured double stops and sonorous arco glisses or plucking metered pizzicato.
Fields and Parker offer a kaleidoscopic array of scintillating tonal colors and subtle electronic textures. Less EFX dependent than many electric guitarists, they rely on sensitivity of touch and phrasing for their sound, rather than twiddling knobs on stomp boxes. Employing a variety of approaches, from pensive, linear patterns to blistering fretwork exuding jittery bursts of atonality, they complement and contrast each other with remarkable restraint and a seething undercurrent of roiling energy.
Fields' darkly humorous song titles allude to the uncertain resolutions of morose, convoluted narratives, much like his own compositions. Intricate, but not overly esoteric, Denouement is a welcome reissue and a high water mark in Fields' varied discography.
Track Listing: Her children are her half-siblings and she the daughter her husband never knew he fathered; Although each had married the other for money, she isn't Italian, or Catholic, or wealthy, but instead is a poor Hasidic who works in Little Italy and he isn't a Texas billionaire, but instead is a Queens grease monkey who collects Roy Rogers memorabilia; The shots he missed were not for the payoff but to punish the tyrannical coach he thought had driven his father to suicide 18 years earlier; The "genius" injections that had seemed to work had no effect on his own intelligence but caused him to emit chemicals that made people near him dumber; His late wife wasn't unfaithful and "his" children were brown and yellow because one testicle each from a negro and an Asian had been transplanted into his own scrotum; The man he killed for "raping" his wife was really her lover and her first husband, or, more accurately, her only husband, since they had never divorced; Nothing had been wrong with him and he spent more time than a year in a body cast being "tenderized" by a cannibal doctor.
Personnel: Scott Fields: electric guitar; Jeff Parker: electric guitar; Jason Roebke: double bass; Hans Sturm: double bass; Michael Zerang: drums; Hamid Drake: drums.