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The musical meeting of innovative   guitarists Elliott Sharp and Scott Fields came by coincidence. Both were aware of each other’s work for many years, but the opportunity of playing as a duo never arose. Each is a master composer and improviser with extensive experience accumulated in various formats. Sharp pioneered the usage of fractal geometry, chaos theory, genetic metaphors and using software in his compositions. Fields, who, like Sharp, plays the soprano saxophone, was commissioned for orchestral compositions.

When Scott was performing in Lisbon and heard Sharp was scheduled for Lisbon’s Jazz em Agusto festival, he joked with the Clean Feed label manager Pedro Costa that it would be a good idea to play with Sharp. Costa thought that was an excellent idea, and Fields emailed Sharp, who liked the idea. The pair played few concerts and Costa arranged the recording sessions that produced Scharfenfelder (Clean Feed, 2008) and Afiadacampos (NEOS, 2010).

The DVD features two performances. The first at the Loft in Cologne on May 2009, and the second at the NOZART festival in Cologne on March 2010. Cameras focus from various angles on two tall, bald-headed guys seated facing each other and playing custom-made steel-stringed acoustic guitars in small spaces. The two blur any attempt to categorize their music in distinct genre or style. They move freely between free improvisation, sonic searches, minimalism, blues and contemporary music in compositions based on conventional notation or graphic notation, all with impressive command, elegance and sharp sense of humor.

The two have different approaches, though both are interested in finding new forms and structures. Sharp tends to be more provocative, investigating the guitar’s timbral range, searching weird-sounding tunings, non-Western sonorities and the syntax of any musical motif or sonic fragment. Fields is often the more reserved player, opting for a clear narrative and theme. They have developed an affinity and their relaxed, supportive interplay contributes to their ability in completing ideas and deeply understanding each other. Sharp and Fields do not try to deny differences in their musical languages. They explore their unique identities through these arresting interactions and spontaneous interpretations.

The generous DVD offers, beside the two live sets, a short interview where both talk about their approaches and musical bond, plus an insightful 26-minute recording session. Highly recommended. — Eyal Hareuveni,   All About Jazz



Eine Gitarrenbegegnung der anderen Art   präsentiert das Avantgarde-DVD-Label PanRec mit Aufnahmen zweier Konzerte von Elliott Sharp und Scott Fields auf akustischen Instrumenten. Ihre Musik streng mathematischer Strukturiertheit, freier Improvisation und immer wieder frei tonaler Ausrichtung klingt spröde und besticht doch durch höchste Konzentration. — Rondo



Director Pavel Borodin has been   growingly active of late, leaving this miserable commentator huffing and puffing as far as reviewing his production is concerned. Let’s try and attempt a catchup run, starting from this excellent film revolving around the practical (and theoretical) aspects that delineate the time-honored partnership between innovative improvising composers and formidable guitarists Sharp and Fields.

The “theoretical” bit mentioned in the preceding paragraph is located in the “special features” subdivision of the DVD, where the musicians explicate the duo’s rootage and the compositional sources for what they design and conjointly execute. Both gentlemen are inclined to shifting inside and out given structures, setting pitch fields to pick from, and searching for a temporal order coordinating written parts and improvised fragments. Establishing a natural physical flux for such complex ideation is described by Fields as perhaps one of the hardest tasks in the business of writing music outside the rigidness of expectation. I also like to recall a significant sentence by Sharp, according to which working within a chosen system necessarily requires a different perspective in the act of listening; that’s exactly how one should conform to the materials presented in the two concerts comprised by Ostryepolya.

Indeed the fundamental importance of these live sets (taped in Cologne in 2009 and 2010) lies behind a simple, but often forgotten principle: a conscientious interaction is a must, Sharp and Fields teaching a lot in that sense as they regularly exchange looks during the performances, nodding in recognition and to change sections, responding to the subtlest nuances (and, why not, harsh scrapes and violent rasgueados) emitted by extremely sensitive steel-stringed instruments. We can observe the differences in the hands’ posture, the attention in selecting a befitting phrase, note or noise in a juncture, the detectable common ground — free jazz to quasi-stochastic semi-regulation, Bailey to avant-blues, and much more. The trained determination of the manual gesturing and the concentrated expression of each artist are captured by intelligent closeups; this, in union with the first-class timbral attributes of finely crafted guitars, contributes to an impression of proximity exalted by the marked left/right separation of the performers in the mix.

Never anticipate ECM-like reverberations, in spite of a restricted number of occurrences characterized by sparser “gentler” notation and relative scarceness of events; this is, by and large, stuff for audiences able to face recurring trouble (a piece by Sharp is aptly titled “Convolution Now”). Continual clusters, pinched upper partials, spiky dynamics, non-singable lines, dissonant chords, metal tampering, eBow and — above all — a nonconforming attitude towards the act of expliciting unusual ideas via normal instrumentation. And yet, when Borodin’s camera catches glimpses of the scores, you can immediately see that it’s not “normal” methods we’re talking of. Discover the rest for yourselves, and learn something on acoustic problem-solving and acceptance of what is not “harmonic” in a tritely Western meaning. — Massimo Ricci,   
Touching Extremes