SCOTT FIELDS ENSEMBLE
Few guitarists have taken up the challenge of free improvisation, at least relative to saxophonists or drummers. And because there have been correspondingly few masters in the field, emerging artists tend to veer toward one of only two canonical styles: the jagged, brittle abstraction of Derek Bailey or the equally fervid (but relatively linear) postromantic lyricism of Joe Morris. But Scott Fields has managed to find a different path, and a rewarding one at that. He borrows evenhandedly from both Bailey and Morris, but offers fewer notes and less volume than either, opening up a fair amount of space and giving his music a particularly midwestern contour--prairie landscapes instead of canyons. The guitarist also offers an answer to the essential question of jazz since the 90s: how to balance composition and improvisation. Unlike a typical head-then-solos jazz tune, his music doesn't counterpose these two forces; instead it often seems to employ both simultaneously, weaving together theme and variation so seamlessly you can't always tell the difference. A Chicago native and longtime denizen of Madison, Wisconsin, Fields worked as a journalist and technical writer from the mid-70s till the early 90s, but since adopting music as a full-time career he's made up for lost time, recording ten discs under his own name with such worthy collaborators as pianist Marilyn Crispell, drummer Hamid Drake, violinist Mat Maneri, and saxist Larry Ochs of ROVA. On a new trio disc, Mamet (Delmark), Fields plumbs his enduring interest in contemporary theater to find a new way of blurring the line between script and interpretation: he's based each of its five programmatic compositions on a different play by David Mamet, and in his playing he attempts to mimic the distinctive feel of the author's dialogue, thereby crafting a musical idiom unique to these pieces. In the liner notes Fields explains his attachment to Mamet: "No one uses time, rhythm, and space quite like him...and I have a nostalgic affection for the Chicago dialects he and I heard growing up a few years and a few miles apart." The drummer on the album, Michael Zerang, will appear at this CD-release celebration; Hans Sturm will stand in for bassist Michael Formanek. Wednesday, May 9, 8 PM (one set only), Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600.