In search for vessels of influence beyond expected musical sources Wisconsin based guitarist Scott Fields has uncovered an intriguing fount of inspiration for his debut Delmark release in the dramatic work of modern American playwrights. Stripped down to power trio instrumentation, but often employing a diffuse long-winded approach Fields explores many of the same sound relationships he’s delved into on earlier recordings including bridges between improvisation and composition and specialized ways in which musicians may interact.
Mamet is something kindred spirit to Fields in terms of the types of moods, emotional dissonance and disconnection he explores in his theatre works and screenplays. His scripts are dialogue driven ventures where character traits and motives are revealed through intense and often verbose interactions. Fields adopts a similar focus centering his pieces on the intricate interplay between the instruments as a means of supplying narrative momentum. Mamet’s stage scoring also proves useful as a guiding directive in Fields aural interpretations, but the verbal components seem to serve as the primary musical determinants.
“Prairie Du Chien” revolves around a clip-clop Tom Waits-like rhythm bubbles to the top early on only to eventually disappear into prolix discursion. “American Buffalo” focuses on the constancy of its characters’ situations. Fields charts his musical interpretation in similar stasis following patterns of composition and guided improvisation that adhere closely to one another. The sonic manifestation is a morose kind of monotony that closely parallels the glum dissatisfaction of the play’s three protagonists.
“The Woods” is carved into several sections of distinct ambience and thrust. Opening with a lengthy and meandering atmospheric prologue designed to suggest an environment of Midwestern wilderness the piece gradually moves into more tempered sounds before a final stretch of vociferous violence signifying the emotional explosion between the play’s two characters and a funeral lapse into somber quiet. Guitar and bass work as the principal voices on “Oleanna” representing a teacher and student and the power polemic that exists and evolves between them. Each instrument alternates between aggressor and minion with Zerang’s drum colorations goading the exchange.
Listening to Fields aural abstractions of Mamet’s dialogue and action the connections he is shooting for frequently becomes less than apparent. While a comprehensive knowledge of the plays covered is not necessarily a perquisite for understanding familiarity with each is helpful in fleshing out the dynamics intended by each piece. Fields liner notes serve as an extremely useful accompaniment to the music. In them he gives numerous examples of his intentions and how they jibe with the allegorical aspects of Mamet’s works. But based solely from musical standpoint these meanings are sometimes difficult to discern.
Delmark on the web: http://www.delmark.com
Track Listing: Prairie Du Chien/ American Buffalo/ Edmond/ The Woods/ Oleanna.
Personnel: Scott Fields- guitar; Michael Formanek- bass; Michael Zerang- drums. Recorded: August 4, 2000, Madison, WI.
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.