|Here is a new item from the variable ensemble of a self-made man who was a spotter for drug dealers and a thief of hubcaps in his teens, but somehow managed to graduate with degrees in economics and journalism and who has gone on to become one of the most interesting guitarists and composers in the current international scene: Scott Fields. This recording — and what a recording it is! — is the first of a series of settings of Samuel Beckett’s short plays, the ensemble now cast as a quartet with cellist Scott Roller, German tenor saxophonist Matthias Schubert and drummer John Hollenbeck. Particularly evident on this CD is Fields’ obsession with structures for improvisation, not simply compositions with spaces in which to improvise solos, like in mainstream jazz, but structured improvisation, or, if you prefer, improvisation as a form of composition.
To provide journalists with a name to for his approach to sound organization, Fields has used “post-free jazz” and “exploratory music.” Jazz is certainly present, but not in the traditional way the label implies. Unsatisfied with the harmonic systems used in this field, he started to deal almost exclusively with the system proposed by classical contemporary composer Stephen Dembski, especially when writing for large ensembles. On “Beckett” he uses a variety of tonal systems. In some places — such as Play — he relies on Dembski’s system, in others — such as “Come and Go” — he gently incorporates traditional jazz changes, and in some — such as “What Where” — he uses a mixture of the two. In some ways, this is the most “jazzy” project he has recorded in many years, and it's certainly the one nearest to the traditional coordinates of this genre. Knowing this, we understand that Hollenbeck is the right choice to deal with pulse: the guy can really swing! And we also understand that Schubert, undoubtedly a jazz sax player, is in comfortable context to do what he knows best.