Scott Fields, electric guitar / Sebastian Gramss, double bass / João Lobo, drums
Recorded 30 September and 1 October 2007, mixed 9 October 2007, at Topaz Studios, Cologne, Germany by Reinhard Kobialka / Mixed and mastered by Reinhard Kobialka / Produced by Scott Fields / Executive production by Trem Azul / Design by Rui Garrido / Cover art by Letitia Gaba — www.letitiagaba.de / Group photo by Geoff Lawrence
“Bitter Love Songs” is the first of Scott Fields’ recordings whose goal is extended blowing in the free-jazz tradition. All but one of the tracks on this CD follow the classic free-jazz model that masters such as Ornette Coleman and Eric Dolphy established. Catchy heads set up improvised sections, fragments taken from the head or outro interrupt the solos, and finally the original head, a variation, or an entirely new outro closes the composition. In the Coleman tradition these compositions are harmolodic in that they don’t follow chord changes.
In spite of his adherence to this now-classic style (2008 marks 50 years since the release of Coleman’s début album “Something Else!!!!”), Fields does add his own twist. The compositions swing, but not in the traditional sense. Quarter-note walking-bass lines are avoided like the plague. When they do surface, they are quickly beaten back into submission by a dizzying array of odd time signatures, fractional beats, skips and stutters, and quirky turnarounds.
The music is also stripped to its core to produce a kind of free-jazz reductionism. Fields set aside his collection of specialized bows, foot pedals, and implements of guitar torture, and instead plugged his guitar straight into a thick cable that was connected directly to a small amplifier. Gramss left his bow in its case and plays every note pizzicato. Lobo spurned brushes, mallets, bamboo rods, and their like and in favor of sticks throughout. The idea, Fields says, was to create a monochrome musical world in which the focus would be on subtle shifts in time and pitch.
Fields had long thought about forming a Freetet and who might best fill the drum and bass chairs (he had settled on himself for guitar). The solution was provided during a series of gigs in Lisbon. For the release of his Clean Feed CD “Beckett” he had performed with musicians who were living in Portugal at the time. One was the drummer João Lobo. During the rehearsals for these gigs, and the performances themselves, he started to sense how well Lobo, with his quick wits and sensitive touch, would fit together with the power and determination of Sebastian Gramss, a bassist with whom Fields had played together in Cologne, Germany, where both live. His suspicions were confirmed when the three gathered in Germany first to explore ideas and later to record this CD.