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In the liner notes to Salutaris Plates, the debut album by Marc Fields, the trombone is referred to as the "underdog instrument of jazz." It is perhaps a sign of sensitivity to his instrument's status that Fields makes inclusiveness the hallmark of the record. After all, it is not often that one disc has enough room for compositions by Billy Strayhorn, Dizzy Gillespie, and Ornette Coleman to co-exist peacefully. Toss in the impressive contributions from Fields' own pen and the result is a veritable musical stew.
The musicians recruited for this enterprise match the scope of the selected songs. In addition to the core quartet of Fields (trombone), Phil DeGreg (piano), Jim Anderson (bass), and Anthony Lee (drums) are a platoon of instrumentalists deployed to provide additional colors. Selected tracks feature clarinet, viola, French horn, and cello, to provide just a partial run-down. Rick Van Matre, in particular, should be singled out for his lovely flute work on both parts of Gillespie's "Con Alma," the first part with an almost chamber music feel and the second with a light, tropical lilt.
Elsewhere, the leader plays with knowing, slurring wit on his own composition, the slinking "Through Black and White Eyes." So many players get their say in the piece that it is reminiscent of a caper movie with a large cast who keep dodging and running into one another as they hurry about their business.
Ultimately, Salutaris Plates feels like a party with an expert host. Fields provides the house and opens the door to anyone who wants to stop by. He is gracious enough to let his guests get in their share of the conversation, and the minute he senses anyone tiring, he knows how to get the whole thing rolling again.
Track Listing: Kela; Salutaris Plates; Con Alma (part one); Con Alma (part two); Flower Babies; Through Black and White Eyes; Lotus Blossom/Love Song For Patricia; The Blessing; Since Before The Beginning; The Promise Keeper; Build Your Own
Personnel: Marc Fields-trombone; Phil DeGreg-piano; Jim Anderson-bass; Anthony Lee-drums with Nadeen Frankhauser-clarinet; Pat Harbison-trumpet, flugelhorn; Rick Van Matre-flute, alto sax; Sarah Niblack-viola; Charles Schweitzer-percussion; Janice Trytten-French horn; Michael Wade-trumpet; Brad Wagner-alto sax; Amy Wiedenbein-cello