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Cologne-based expatriate American guitarist Scott   Fields frames this memorable quartet session as a tribute to existential Irish writer Samuel Beckett (1906-1989). Unlike Beckett’s almost static works featuring lonely humans trying to articulate the unexpressive however, Fields’ compositions manage to be both stirring and affecting.

Although the longer tracks incorporate Beckett-like extended pauses, elsewhere all-encompassing, multi-voiced counterpoint recalls not the Irish dramatist’s bare-bones style, but the overlapping dialogue of film makers such as Robert Altman. American playwright David Mamet received a similar homage from Fields in 2000 and the subsequent years have fortified the guitarist’s playing and writing…or is it acting and directing?

Dramatis personae in this work include a cast of experienced actors…er, players. German tenor saxophonist Matthias Schubert exposes timbres ranging from pumping atonal slurs to echoing, chesty vibrations; versatile American percussionist John Hollenbeck busily propels the splintered beat with his regular kit, while using water-glass-like pings, pealing chimes, and what sounds like rubber-balls bouncing on snare tops for added scene-setting. Yank expat cellist Scott Roller, of the legit Helios String Quartet, adds cross-swiped col legno jabs as effortlessly as vamping walking bass lines.

While the staccato “Play” projects quadruple counterpoint from all concerned — demonstrating call-and-call rather than call-and-response — the nearly 30-minute agitato “What Where” is Fields’ chef d’oeuvre. With his knob-twisting distortion and slurred fingering on show, the guitarist elaborates the accelerating explosive theme on top of solid rhythms propelled both by Hollenbeck’s unaffected smacks, slaps and pops and near-identical stop-and-start voicing of scrapes, whistles, stops and vibrations from cello and saxophone.

Thematically conclusive throughout, Beckett transcends its derivation to become CD that is certainly more polyphonic — and often more theatrical — than Beckett’s writing. — Ken Waxman,   Coda Magazine

There are some musicians who   stand out from the crowd, and guitarist Scott Fields certainly qualifies. Not that his music is overtly provocative or extreme, but there is an unquestionable singularity to his vision, one more readily identifiable as contemporary music rather than jazz or free-form improv. A case in point is this single, flowing, fifty-nine minute piece performed by him, on acoustic guitar, Matt Turner on cello and Guillermo Gregorio, playing only straight b-flat clarinet. More than that, all musicians play percussion, striking what seem to be metal plates or tubing in ways reminiscent of Balinese gamelan ensembles (which the leader himself alludes to in his insightful notes). In doing so, one may well be reminded of John Cage’s translation of Far Eastern musics into the contemporary classical vernacular; there’s an underlying reflective, meditative quality to the work, which is spiked by the clattering percussion passages. While the bulk of the performance is improvised, written passage surface throughout, like signposts along the way of a mysterious journey in time, space and tone color. Accordingly these are never bright and bold, but subdued and dark, yet no less intense, like the deep ultramarine hue that adorns the cover. — Marc Chénard,   Coda Magazine

The listener is placed in   the midst of a complex of layered dialogues, in which the two guitarists seem most apparent but in which underlying threads of bass and percussion gradually rise to prominence. The levels of clarity and transparency are surprising for a group of this instrumentation, and the ultimate feeling is both abstract and contemplative. —   Stuart Broomer, Coda

The affinity isn’t about particulars,   but rather the quiet intimacy, economy and evanescent lyricism (both composed and improvised) of this remarkable group. Fields’ classical guitar playing is just that, richly sonorous, bell-like and subtly nuanced, and the three-way playing here is a continuous weave of thoughtful linear threads. — Stuart Broomer,   Coda


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