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Alliteration and rhythm, hyperbole and bombast. Literary devices and their musical counterparts often incorporate similar means to an end. Both are designed to elicit specific emotions and responses in their audiences. Scott Fields explores the ramifications of one such device, denouement, on this latest release on his own Geode imprint. In literature denouement denotes the final resolution of plot intricacies at the close of a story. Each of Fields’ song titles illustrates the culmination of a dramatic scenario, many with a sharp edge of dark humor. Concurrently the compositions work on an analogous level through a series of ensemble and solo expositions terminating in an often-ambiguous final resolution. As a result the pieces often share the oblique opacity of their titles and frequently leave the listener pondering what transpired over their duration. This aura of unexpectedness is a chief component in both the players’ approach and in the disc’s success.
The double trio Fields assembled for the session is made up of some of the most accomplished improvisers operating out of the Midwestern United States. Drake, Zerang and Parker reside in the Chicago, Roebke teaches in Michigan and Sturm hails from Muncie, Indiana. Fields is based out of Madison, Wisconsin and this is his seventh release as a leader but odds are you’ve never heard of him. He’s been plying his craft in semi-obscurity for several decades even though his past recordings have featured some of the luminaries of free improvisation including Joseph Jarman and Marilyn Crispell. In making the life choice to devote oneself to such music a healthy amount of patience and an aptitude for invention are essential character traits. Both of these attributes carry over into the calculated complexities of Fields’ music.
Parker is in many ways a perfect foil for Fields favoring a similar preference for crisp single note articulation. As a member of the free form fusion groups Tortoise and Isotope 217, as well as resident guitarist with Ernest Dawkin’s New Horizons Ensemble, he’s no stranger to the rigors of rangy experimentation. The two guitarists exhibit a startling reciprocity when it comes to musical ideas. Drake and Zerang have worked together in numerous capacities, most commonly in a series of annual Solstice percussion concerts and as the drum section in Peter Brötzmann’s tentet. The pair’s near telepathic combinations of rhythms deliver the perfect percussive underpinning. Roebke and Sturm aren’t always as synergetic in their interactions as the other two pairs of musicians but both exhibit agile acuity on their strings whether with bow or fingers.
An austere chamber-like atmosphere informs most of the numbers, augmented by the metallic amplification of the guitars and the muted contrasts between percussion and strings. Together the six move over an angular landscape of fractured melodic fragments, skittering harmonics and lopingly morose themes pausing along the way to sculpt a strong succession of enigmatic improvisations. Those who value music that challenges and incites rumination will find a great deal to decipher in the riddles of Field’s sound collages. Hopefully this new release will aid him in gaining the increased exposure and appreciation he deserves.
Personnel: Scott Fields- electric guitar; Jeff Parker- electric guitar; Hamid Drake- drum kit; Michael Zerang- drum kit; Hans Sturm- double bass; Jason Roebke- double bass.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.