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Paul Acquaro      There is a great deal of space for electric guitarist Scott Fields and tenor saxophonist Matthias Schubert to fill on this recent duo outing.

Clean Feed offers this description on their site: “In the Minaret Minuets system there are two separate but equal branches: the electric guitar and the tenor saxophone. Composer slash instrumentalists — those roles smear — Scott Fields and Matthias Schubert find myriad methods to blend and contrast, to appear to be at one moment a larger ensemble and then to sound as just one.”

I do not think I could have composed a better summation of the music within — the tracks feel organically grown and composed by the spontaneous reactions between the musicians, running the gamut from tiny sounds produced by the acoustics surrounding the instruments to playing at their extremes. Without the grounding of bass or percussion and sans any traditional song structure, all emphasis is shifted to the musician’s interplay and sonic atmosphere.

For example, there is a passage about halfway into the extended “Willie’s Billy Beer” where the guitar melody skitters over light saxophonic flatulence. So intimate, barely making a sound, the woodwind’s breathiness provides just enough subtle support for the delicate melody. Soon, everything from key clicks to short snippets of melody from the sax begin interacting with string scratches and muted pickings. It’s the textures of sound bouncing off each other that make such sparse moments so effective. Their approach seems to capture emotions and subconscious thoughts more than overt statements.

But all is not calm, while there are great expanses of ruminative rambling, there are also moments of rambunctious raucousness. The 7-minute “Multi Trill” begins exhilaratingly — all skronk und drang — but eventually settles into a more lyrical flow. “Santa on a Segway” has moments of sweetness and synergy where the rhythms and tones between the two players meld delightfully.

This is a long recording — clocking in around the 75 minutes mark and while it takes some determination to sit through the whole event, it takes its time to unfold and contains many interesting passages that make it worth the listen. At any one point the guitar may be laying down a rhythmic single note figure and then drop in some chords while the sax bounces melodic figured off the morphing structures, then the roles may shift or transform into other shapes and sounds.

This is a conversation that never ends — it’s one held in music and while there may be lulls and heated moments, there is no time when the ideas dry up. four stars —    Free Jazz Blogspot

     According to Scott Fields’ website, this recording with Elliot Sharp, Afiadacampos, came out in 2010, which on the cusp of 2012, makes me a little more than fashionably late. Apologies for my tardiness, however, I am pleased to report the music has not aged a bit. I think the first thing that stuck out to me on this recording is just how nicely recorded the steel string acoustic guitars sound.

Since they are rather indistinguishable sonically, the separation is done via left and right channel making this a nice album to listen to via the headphones. The sound swirls and coalesces in time and space, sometimes disorientingly, sometime soothingly. Typically a guitar duo, which is a favorite configuration of mine, relies on a division between melodic, rhythmic and harmonic functions, in varying combinations. Here, the duties seem split melodic/melodic, harmonic/texture, texture/melodic, basically everything but what you may expect.

The songs are reactions and cerebral conversations between the guitarists. Just to take one song at random, say, “I Love Not Green Eggs” apart, one would hear every aforementioned interaction, with sharp melodic cluster bouncing off string scrapes and defiant low register plucks. Almost classical passages sit atop randomness. This is the un-formula of each improvisation.

If there is a complaint to lodge, it would be that about half-way through the recording that the improvizations begin to blend into each other. However, just in time, the tracks “Delta Delta” and “Sun Figtree” negates that criticism as vigorous rhythms and knotty textures are effectively deployed. It all works to create a rather interesting and provocative set of acoustic explorations.

This is something I’d recommend to listeners who are adventurous,thirsty for something different, and appreciate the many sounds of the steel string acoustic guitar. Four stars. —    Free Jazz Blogspot

Noël Akchoté     Next chapter in the Scott Fields journey. Two string duets (guitars, theorbo) based on compositional and interpretations studies. Pretty focused and sharp, not the usual lengthy improv tapes at least. While listening to these two albums I find and booknote many passages I would like to hear again, pause and think of, enter. Scott Fields is a very aware artist, he pays a lot of attention to all parameters active in music, balances them, questions them and gives each time a proposal and a position. For my own taste and interest I even find that this composed form fits Fields the most, giving a backbone to the whole playing and clearing all the loose cuts of improv in general. The type of record I keep, file and want to get back to, slower. It draws a line to follow and makes each of his albums related to each other from inside. —    Skug

Clifford Allen     The Freetet is ostensibly Cologne-based guitarist Scott Fields’ “traditional blowing vehicle,” and Bitter Love Songs is his first in the guitar-bass-drums format since Mamet (Delmark, 2001), with bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Michael Zerang. On Bitter Love Songs, he’s joined by German bassist Sebastian Gramss and Portuguese drummer João Lobo. What makes this date a semi-departure for Fields is that, in the last six years, most of his work has been for chamber ensembles with unique instrumentation; improvised but with challenging notation. These include Beckett (Clean Feed, 2006) and We Were the Phliks (Rogue Art, 2007).

“Yea Sure, We Can Still Be Friends, Whatever” opens Bitter Love Songs, an evermore scumbled improvisation on a simple-but-effective bluesy theme, from fleet mid-range choruses to muted smears interspersed with referential flecks. Gramss and Lobo make a solid post-bop pair, yet seamlessly enter into frantic collective interplay as Fields’ runs become blurred.

More pointillist is “Go Ahead, Take the Furniture, At Least You Helped Pick It Out,” occupying similar structural territory to Fields’ more delicate chamber pieces, while still sallying forth with a pliant groove.

What might separate this group from “traditional” theme-solos-theme orientation is that, for the most part, the leader is the only soloist (Gramss is spotlighted on “I Was Good Enough for You…”). Nevertheless, the Freetet’s approach is certainly unified—as Fields’ playing becomes more fragmentary and texturally diverse, Gramss and Lobo up the ante. Indeed, the bassist is frequently the first to follow Fields in speedy plucked lines, as mutual shading soon approaches a locking of horns.

“My Love is Love, Your Love is Hate” (winner of the shortest-title contest on this disc) finds the writing becoming progressively more seasick in a hellishly knotty melodic/rhythmic collision, Lobo’s suspended time gradually filling in momentum alongside the strings’ ornate picking, digs and scrapes. Sub-tonal jabs behind the bridge approach British guitarist Ray Russell’s territory, before the trio brings the tune into a muddy thrum. One must be prepared for relentlessness with this disc—even the brief calm of a dusky Grant Green-ish melody on “Your Parents Must Be Just Ecstatic Now” is quickly overtaken by a storm of fuzz and piercing shards.

When Fields and guitarist Jeff Parker convened a double-trio for Denouement (Geode, 1997, reissued on Clean Feed), the level of interplay from the “paired Freetets” astounded this writer. On Bitter Love Songs, multiplying the equation is unnecessary, as there’s so much music available here. —   
All About Jazz

    This may very well be the year that puts Chicago guitarist Scott Fields firmly on the improvisational map. His Clean Feed Records debut, Beckett, occupies a tense poise between measured and somewhat theatre-inspired movement and free immediacy. Joining him on the tightrope walk are percussionist John Hollenbeck, tenorman Matthias Schubert and cellist Scott Roller. On the heels of Beckett is the reissue of Dénouement, a double-trio recording initially waxed in 1997 for Fields’ tiny, now-defunct Geode label. He’s joined by guitarist Jeff Parker (here in a pre-Thrill Jockey guise), bassists Jason Roebke and Hans Sturm, and drummers Hamid Drake and Michael Zerang (who appeared with bassist Michael Formanek on Fields’ excellent Delmark disc Mamet).

Fields characterizes the music as “the bastard child of King Sunny Adé and Ornette Coleman” and he might not be incorrect in that assertion. Luckily not recorded in mono, each trio is audible in separate yet interweaving channels, Fields, Sturm and Drake on the right and Parker, Roebke and Zerang on the left. From the opening plinks and strums of “Her Children,” plaintive and nearly detuned, Parker and Fields underpin, addend and fragment their own dialogue, a delicate conversation in language about to collapse on itself. Pulled out from dissipation by a seemingly abrupt arrival at martial swing, the twin rhythm sections offer a steadily oppositional groove, basses and guitars walking in contrasts and a unison of throaty grasps, linked mostly by absence. After all, one reason for using two bassists or drummers in opposing rhythms is that the contrast will, rather than stagnate create a third and less deterministic pulse, stemming from “both” and “neither.”

Like musical forebears the Art Ensemble of Chicago and the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, these lengthy improvisations (albeit with brief written signposts) should be taken as a whole, with individual areas popping out and grabbing one’s senses — dueling arco-ponticello basses catch the ear mightily, percussion hanging overhead in implied fits of near-waltz as Fields and Parker skitter from the front porch to somewhere way, way underground. A charged, fuzzy rock phrase is worried in damning repetition, Sharrock-like overtones brought out as basses, toms and a second guitar both goad and placate. It’s the simultaneity of sounds, phrases and rhythms and their conflicted outcomes — or, rather, the space between these things — that makes Fields’ ensembles work. Luckily for us, this early example of his music is available again.—    Paris Transatlantic Magazine

Arild R. Andersen     De to gitaristene Elliott Sharp og Scott Fields har også satt preg på amerikansk musikk de siste 30 årene, både som komponister og utøvere. På Scharfefelder møtes de til naken, akustisk dyst og duett, i grenselandet komponert/improvisert. Musikken er intim, men også stålstrengskarp og eksplosiv. Stilkomponenter fra frijazz, blues og minimalisme tilkjennegir seg i de forskjellige uttrykkene som presenteres. Scharfefelder byr på fortettet nerve og reflektert spill. — 5 stars (out of 5)   Oslopuls

Jon Andrews     Cloistered in Wisconsin, guitarist Scott Fields devises new ways of structuring improvisation. In a string of unjustly overlooked CDs, he’s experimented with groups of varying configurations. This incarnation of Fields’ ensemble is a good introduction to his music, in part because it showcases his thoughtful, probing guitar solos in a trio setting. Inspired by playwright David Mamet, this project uses the atmospheres, dramatic interactions and texts from five plays to guide the soloists. Fields goes so far as to incorporate Mamet’s dialogue into his instrumental scores, and to assign dramatic roles to each musician. The strategy demands, and obtains, expressive, “vocal” performances from bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Michael Zerang.

On “The Woods,” listen to the give-and-take between Fields’ guitar and Formanek’s bass, which voice the female and male “leads,” respectively. Fields’ guitar solos pass through a pleading blues twang to sputtering anger, culminating in howls of anguish. Without in-depth knowledge of the plays or the scores, it’s impossible to assess how closely the trio captures the meaning or rhythms of Mamet’s dialogue. The performances are so good that it shouldn’t matter. four stars! —   Downbeat

Glenn Astarita     On Song Songs Song Parker and guitarist Scott Fields engage in a freeform, improvised route amid track titles that would make Captain Beefheart proud. The duo partakes in scratching and clawing via lightly amplified electric guitar lines and contrasting sound-shaping maneuvers. On the opening “LK 92,” perhaps the most accessible piece of the bunch, Parker and Fields render a laidback jazz-blues motif topped off with an affecting melody and random shifts in pitch. Although the guitarists occasionally crank it up and with just enough amplification to generate some bite, the majority of the set is structured upon irregular ebbs and flows.

The duo uses space as a means for maintaining an element of surprise while also employing volume control techniques and assimilating a wide-ranging latitude of viewpoints. The 17-minute improvisation “Untitled, 1955, Crayon On Kellogg’s Corn Flakes Box,” is part minimalism and dissonance, embellished with clanging harmonics and odd phrasings. The picture painted here is that of two shrewd operators establishing a few guidelines, yet not knowing or caring where they’ll end up. 3 stars (out of 5) —   DownBeat

     Overall, Hornets Collage is lyrical, enduring, spacious yet subtly captivating as the Trio pursue layered themes and sweet-tempered choruses while the music breathes life and conjures up vivid imagery proportionate to an impressionist painter of landscapes or dreams…. Hornets Collage is an authentic synthesis of interminable patterns as the musicians keenly and vividly conceptualize the notions of nature, hard at work. Recommended! **** —   All About Jazz