Gaz-eta review by Tom Sekowski

Scott Fields Ensemble – Denouement (CF 088)

Guitarist Scott Fields points out in the liner notes to his latest record “We Were The Philks”: “It is my habit to set myself some rules for each project I compose. Otherwise the world is just too big for me. For my contributions to The Phliks book I made myself a rule that every tune would include traditional notation, graphical notation, and improvisation?in the Phliks pieces I would blur the distinction between notated and improvised material.” When one listens to the 70-minute work, a distinct sense of confusion comes about. What is composed and what is improvised? Then again, when the music is this solid, does it really matter? Fields has assembled a stellar cast for the project. His ensemble includes Thomas Lehn on analogue synth, Matthias Schubert on tenor sax and Xu Fengxia on guzheng. Fields’ music sparkles with an unspoken intensity. While his guitar hums with electric sparkles, put together with Xu Fengxia’s distinct hollow guzheng, it is a killer. Add to this Schubert’s intensely satisfying tenor gale blows and Lehn’s other-worldly synth slabs and you’ve got yourself a tight band kicking up a storm. As the sounds alternate between more serene passages and those that simply rock, the music moves in a natural, nearly cyclical way. If there is one factor that sticks out of the mix, it’s got to be Thomas Lehn and his squeaky synth. In applying simple pressure tactics, he often times convinces the other players to follow along into alien territories he favours to tread. Wildly satisfying record from beginning to end.
Working in a different ensemble altogether, Fields’ playing turns into a different animal altogether. Double trio that he put together sometime around mid 90’s, provides the leader ample opportunity to stretch out as a composer and improviser. Competing with him on guitar is Jeff Parker, while the rhythm section is made up of Jason Roebke and Hans Sturm on bass and Michael Zerang and Hamid Drake on percussion. Best thing is each player has its own channel to play into, thus giving perfect chance to hear point-counterpoint between what the other partner is doing at the same time. Fields here sounds more relaxed. In fact, his playing is akin to his better Music&Arts records from mid 90’s. A little on the angular side, but still romping up a healthy dose of all over the map picking. At times bluesy, while other times completely free, it’s difficult to imagine all of these pieces were actually composed. Much of the guitarist’s work sounds somewhat similar to what James Blood Ulmer used to do in the mid 70’s. Roebke and Sturm complement each other quite well, shifting between pure arco and some nasty finger picking action, while both percussionists keep a firm beat on the proceedings. Each takes a turn at soloing, while Drake is master of keeping his distinct personality on the record. Originally released in limited quantities on Fields’ own Geode imprint, the record is finally seeing a much deserved reissue. Glowing with a warm heart and ideas to spare, it’s safe to put “Dénouement” as re-issue of the year so far.

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