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While looking for a point of light helping me through a better assimilation of Five Frozen Eggs’ refined complexity (and considering that I hadn’t listened to the original 1996 release) my eye fell on a quasi-nonchalant clue thrown by the nominal leader in the liners: all seven pieces were created following methods engendered by the mind of composer Stephen Dembski. Hopefully Fields will forgive the rapid investigations made to fill the umpteenth gap in my presumed knowledge, but now the conceptualization of the intentions lying behind this work appears clear: Dembski is a stalwart at the University of Wisconsin-Madison music faculty and — among diverse talents — a man who constantly looks for new ways (including the development of softwares) to generate broad-minded compositional structures. Fields, a regular collaborator, has always been concerned with tearing down the damp walls that delimit jazz and other varieties of artistic contemporariness. All of a sudden this reviewer realized that the suppositional reticence fought over the course of the first half-dozen of listens was instead merely screening a series of transparent interactions in a small universe where contrapuntal fungibility is the (flexible) criterion to follow.

The rest came easy. Marilyn Crispell courteously reclaims a role of co-protagonist thanks to her chordal radiancy imbued of classily radical obstinance. Hans Sturm has the honor of opening the album with a splendid solo (entirely notated, as stressed by Fields), then keeps nourishing the lowermost of the audio spectrum with a combination of drama and logicality. Hamid Drake impressively dissects the motoric principles, exploring secret erogenous zones in the music’s animate organic qualities, stroking and tapping a fine-grained fresco that spreads across the program, remaining nearly silent when he feels like. There are several atmospheric and stylistic changes in here — from the contemplation of the title track and “Laogai” to the discordant march of “Little Soldiers For Science”, the lone place where the tolerant boss utilizes a modicum of distortion. The only traces of prototypical swing are found in “The Archaeopteryx and the Manatees”, quieted afterwards by a gorgeous lyrical interlude. Enough words, already: just enjoy the intelligence of a quartet for which the definition “acoustic facade” will never exist. — Massimo Ricci,   The Squid’s Ear

Alright, so today it’s not  a matter of rock. The blog never has been and I suppose never will be only that. Today we consider something by an electric guitarist and his ensemble, something in the realm of avant jazz, free jazz if you like that term.

Scott Fields is a player of genuine stature in this realm. And the recording is a well-healed excursion with a top-notch ensemble. The album is named 5 Frozen Eggs (Clean Feed 258).

Scott Fields amassed some signpost-like and/or more fleshed-out compositions for the date to help the ensemble set mood, tone and direction. Then he and the group cut loose with some very free and eloquent improvisations. The results are what one might expect if you know the players—Marilyn Crispell on piano, Hamid Drake, drums, Hans Sturm, acoustic bass, and of course Scott on electric.

The Fields guitar style is pretty (sometimes very) electric and filled with all kinds of melodic twists and turns. You get the feeling listening as he plays that there is no discernible gap between what he thinks musically and what comes out of the instrument. The mind envisions lines of broad harmonic ramification, the hands execute with style and drama. He’s creating lines that sound like they are completely his—because they ARE.

The piano improvisations of Ms. Crispell are, as always, extraordinarily creative and impactful. Her playing has a logic to it and flows in unending inspiration, or so it sounds. Hans Sturm churns it up at the bottom with an excellent sound and feel. Hamid Drake comes across as poised, dead-on, yet very free. He swings in his very own way when called upon and he like the others can create much that’s inspired in a spontaneous setting. The complete drummer, he is.

So there you have it—four excellent improvisers doing great work interactively and individually, some appropriate compositional frameworks within which that happens, and a guitar stylist who belongs to a category of one, Scott Fields.

It’s music that stays essential and vibrant throughout. If I were rich and they were available, I’d have these folks play at my birthday party! The next best thing is 5 Frozen Eggs. Happy birthday to everybody with this one! Fields and company create music that celebrates life, freely and smartly. — Grego Applegate Edwards,   Gapplegate Guitar and Bass Blog

Avant guitarist, b. 1946, based   in Chicago, has about twenty albums since 1993, several of which have been picked up and reissued by Clean Feed. Seems like most are cranky solo affairs, but some aren’t, and this one is dominated by Marilyn Crispell’s piano, at her iciest, creating fractured landscapes that Fields, bassist Hans Sturm, and drummer Hamid Drake trek through. (B+), three stars. — Tom Hull,   TomHull.com

5 Frozen Eggs is a   reissue of a 1996 recording by guitarist Scott Fields that was originally released on the Music and Arts label. On it, he’s joined by longtime Anthony Braxton pianist Marilyn Crispell, his fellow Chicagoan Hamid Drake on drums, and bassist Hans Sturm. Fields’ compositions are introspective and impressionistic, with episodes that sound improvised but are in fact through-composed. Guitar-wise, he usually occupies some of the same sonic space as John McLaughlin did circa Extrapolation (before discovering Sri Chinmoy and distortion), his tone astringent, his ideas abundant. On “Little Soldiers for Science,” Fields dirties the sound up a bit, his lines juxtaposing crazy intervallic leaps and glisses with hammers and clusters of notes. The other musicians swirl around him like a sorcerer’s spell. — Ken Shimamoto,   The Stash Dauber

The music on this set   is almost free, but tied to guitarist Scott Fields’ themes and the mood of each piece. The interplay between the musicians is impressive, the music often rumbles menacingly, and it is consistently if disconcertingly unpredictable. Fields is usually the lead voice, but Marilyn Crispell is alert in her “backing” of him and the rhythm team of bassist Hans Sturm and drummer Hamid Drake keeps the music from ever being too comfortable. Although not for everyone, this set grows in interest with each listen. — Ken Shimamoto,   It’s Only Rock‘n’Roll

Context is the operative for   success regarding Scott Fields’ musical vision. While capable guitarists are a dime a dozen, only a handful compose and improvise in a challenging setting with the consistency of Fields. By surrounding himself with players of the highest caliber, Fields’ group suggests a finely tuned, living entity. This quartet serves as an important reminder of what creative improvised music has to offer. In this case, a nimble musical vehicle with all-wheel drive. — Jon Morgan,   Cadence Magazine

Five Frozen Eggs — the sleeve-notes   explain the title — strikes something of a balance among the various styles Fields is investigating, loosening the chamberish qualities of some of the pieces without surrendering the rather formal, almost courtly kind of free organization he seems to be interested in. His own playing here eschews much in the way of effects and there is a sense of contrapuntalism among the four musicians which makes this record perhaps the best place to sample Fields’s music — energetic, occasionally volatile, but fundamentally about form and its effect on content—   Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, sixth edition

Five Frozen Eggs merges the   tensile throttle of Disaster and charged largeness of 48 Motives. — Andrew Bartlett,   Eugene Weekly

Fields wrote all of the   compositions on this stimulating CD and plays them on guitar with pianist Marilyn Crispell, bassist Hans Sturm, and percussionist Hamid Drake. Despite often performing quietly, they take plenty of risks. Fields employs harmonic and rhythmic/metric concepts derived from composer Stephen Dembski, which he’s modified for use in an improvising context. Often his group’s playing, though not conventionally melodic, is lyrical. Much of the disc features thoughtful, pointillistic collective improvisation. Crispell’s the most aggressive player here and performs impressively. Her work ranges from pensive to jarringly percussive, but is always well thought out, inventive, and clearly articulated. Fields plays economically, concentrating on adding color to the ensemble. Sturm and Drake make valuable contributions, listening closely to what’s going on and responding with intelligence and creativity. — Harvey Pekar,   Jazziz

The compositions of the American   guitarist, Scott Fields, move between Jazz and New Music. The songs working as outline sketches, reflecting feelings, serve as a starting point for the numerous, free improvisations of the participating musicians. Powerful, swinging or grooving collective improvisations are as possible as entertaining lyric moments or ironic comedy. Notable here is the aloof, alluding style of pianist Marilyn Crispell. Hamid Drake, known for his earlier work with Peter Brotzman, plays a powerful but nuance filled percussion. In the combination of their soliloquies, the musicians of the Scott Fields Ensemble produce a cohesive, satisfying, and unique sound. Five Frozen Eggs is an energetic but varied and versatile recording, filled with all sorts of surprises. — Thomas Forkert,   Jazz Podium