July 20, 2007
Scott Fields Ensemble
Clean Feed CFO69 CD (www.cleanfeed-records.com)
Cologne-based expatriate American guitarist Scott Fields frames this memorable quartet session as a tribute to existential Irish writer Samuel Beckett (1906-1989). Unlike Becketts almost static works featuring lonely humans trying to articulate the unexpressive however, Fields compositions manage to be both stirring and affecting.
Although the longer tracks incorporate Beckett-like extended pauses, elsewhere all-encompassing, multi-voiced counterpoint recalls not the Irish dramatists bare-bones style, but the overlapping dialogue of film makers such as Robert Altman. American playwright David Mamet received a similar homage from Fields in 2000 and the subsequent years have fortified the guitarists playing and writing or is it acting and directing?
Dramatis personae in this work include a cast of experienced actors er, players. German tenor saxophonist Matthias Schubert exposes timbres ranging from pumping atonal slurs to echoing, chesty vibrations; versatile American percussionist John Hollenbeck busily propels the splintered beat with his regular kit, while using water-glass-like pings, pealing chimes, and what sounds like rubber-balls bouncing on snare tops for added scene-setting. Yank expat cellist Scott Roller, of the legit Helios String Quartet, adds cross-swiped col legno jabs as effortlessly as vamping walking bass lines.
While the staccato Play projects quadruple counterpoint from all concerned demonstrating call-and-call rather than call-and-response the nearly 30 minute agitato What Where is Fields chef doeuvre. With his knob-twisting distortion and slurred fingering on show, the guitarist elaborates the accelerating explosive theme on top of solid rhythms propelled both by Hollenbecks unaffected smacks, slaps and pops and near-identical stop-and-start voicing of scrapes, whistles, stops and vibrations from cello and saxophone.
Thematically conclusive throughout, Beckett transcends its derivation to become CD that is certainly more polyphonic and often more theatrical than Becketts writing.
— Ken Waxman
CODA Issue 334