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Scott Fields Ensemble - "this that"

Scott Fields is an electric guitarist who can go for the jugular while shouldering same fairly hefty conceptual baggage. His squally eruptions on This That suggest an intelligent and ironic man giving vent to seething anger and frustration. But this trio recording in the sympathetic company of cellist Peggy Lee and drummer Dylan van der Schyff is by no means all spleen. Much of the album has a probing feel, quietly teasing apart modest phrases and motifs that are firmly established at the start then continuously revised and elaborated. The three players circle around the core material kneading and tugging until it has stretched into a piece that can be called "This is This," "That is This, or "That is That." The reversible  titles accurately reflect music that seembs conclusive but is primed to unravel in order to begin again. Despite the assertive tone, nothing is ever definitively stated because it can always be said otherwise, as in all successful improvising. Fields has said that his use of the word 'Ensemble' pays homage to The Art Ensemble of his native Chicago, rather than being a means to identify a particular group of musicians. The personnel lined up behind the name has varied wildly. Van de Schyff recurs on 96 Gestures but as part of a 12 piece group steered by conductor Stephen Dembski. Among the other members are alto saxophonist Joseph Jarman, pianist Myra Melford, Clarinetist François Houle and Rob Mazurek on cornet. The composition is a structure of cued modules giving leads that encourage improvisation. Outcome can vary considerably as these three realizations, each more than an hour long, demonstbrate well. Common to all three is a sense of fluency, lightness and mobility, multiple events and constant activity without unwanted snarls or messy collisions. Ostensibly very different to This That, and on a label subsidiary to CRI, which has for many years championed contemporary compositions, 96 Gestures nonetheless shares points of contact in its questioning repetitions and variations, its (more formal) permutatory maneuvers and the sense that no concluding gesture can ever be more than provisional. FieldsŐs choice of collaborators has been one of his strengths. Here it ensures sensitive playing and accurate reading that align the piece with substantial work by the likes of Butch Morris, Anthony Braxton, and John Zorn seeking ways to sustain and extend creative relationships between composed forms and alert improvising.

     - Julian Cowley, The Wire


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