Drummer Alvin Fielder grew up in Mississippi, but the fruition of his musical career in Chicago came in the 1960s, when he worked with Sun Ra and appeared on Roscoe Mitchell’s legendary Sound (Delmark, 1966) LP, one of the first AACM recordings to be released. After returning to a pharmacy career in Mississippi in the late 1960s, Fielder began working regularly with New Orleans saxophonist Kidd Jordan in the Improvisational Arts Ensemble.
A relationship that spans over thirty years, Fielder and Jordan have collaborated frequently with bassist William Parker, pianist/saxophonist Joel Futterman, and tenor man Fred Anderson among others. Steeped in the music’s history, and especially that of the drummers, Fielder took time out from his schedule to speak with writer Clifford Allen in late 2005. Unpublished until now, the writer feels that—on the heels of a tour with Jordan and the release of Fielder’s Clean Feed Records debut (featuring another longtime collaborator, Dallas-based trumpeter Dennis Gonzalez), A Measure of Vision—now is most definitely the time.
Interview here: http://www.allaboutjazz.com:80/php/article.php?id=26294
Scott Fields Ensemble – Beckett (CF 069)
“Beckett” features the Scott Fields Ensemble in a tribute to the work of playwright Samuel Beckett (1906-1989). Running helter-skelter and varied with much emotion, the quartet members interact as characters in a play, letting their conversations come and go without restraint. Tenor saxophone, cello, drums & percussion and the leader’s fiery guitar make each composition sparkle with animation. They prefer short, choppy statements that move back and forth from one artist to the next. Whereas most Free Jazz ensembles fit the pieces together in such a way that they’re able to deliver their music simultaneously, Like the script for a play, each artist here becomes a character in the composer’s arena. They juggle their musical lines with such seamless delight that it all seems quite natural. However, the music runs detached and choppy for the most part. While much of the program flits back and forth, there’s considerable space between the lines. Fields’ comfortable guitar remains capable of expressing a wide range of emotion, from quiet inhibition to rage. Cellist Scott Roller fulfills the role of melody-maker as well as providing the underlying rhythmic pulse. John Hollenbeck colors with swirling activity, while saxophonist Matthias Schubert contributes considerable thematic material. Beckett was a minimalist who allowed his work to grow increasingly cryptic. What a perfect match for Scott Fields, who points his latest improvised project in the same direction with much success.
Broo/Lane/Nilssen-Love/Vandermark – 4 Corners (CF 076)
The quartet on “4 Corners” is an ad hoc setting culled from three live sets Vandermark, trumpet player Magnus Broo, bassist Adam Lane, and Nilssen-Love played during the 2006 Jazz ao Centro festival in Coimbra, Portugal. While this was a first-time meeting for all four, the trumpet player and drummer play together in the group Atomic which toured and played with Vandermark’s group School Days. Though Lane hadn’t played with any of the others before, the four are able to find common ground around the compositions. Half of the pieces are by Vandermark and the other half are by Lane, and it s easy to tell them apart. Lane provides Free Bop hemes and the four use them as the basis for loose blowing. Vandermark’s pieces are more tructural forms with propulsive bass and drums arts that kick things along with boisterous energy. This is a muscular affair, with Vandermark on bari sax, bass clarinet, and clarinet blowing hard against Broo’s acrobatic trumpet. Though the reed player pushes hard, it is Broo’s lithe, free melodicism that really shines through. Lane’s bass often sounds like it is being processed by electronics as he throws things into overdrive, goading the others along with swaths of wild, distorted arco. Lane’s themes give the group a bit more to dig in to, though it may be that they just didn’t have enough time to get comfortable with Vandermark’s structures. There’s solid playing all around, and I’m sure that this sounded great live, but it comes off more as an energetic summit than a true ensemble.
Billy Fox – The Uncle Wiggly Suite (CF 068)
Billy Fox is one of those composers, like Maria Schneider, who uses an orchestra as his instrument. On “The Uncle Wiggly Suite” he puts a changing group of musicians through a set of long pieces and fragments inspired mostly by dreams. Bassist Mark Dresser sets the pace on most of the longer works, like “Uncle Wiggly,” where his furious playing leads to the horns blaring out a spare five note theme against a brisk rhythmic pace. “Eyeball” is classic small group Jazz with trumpet and saxes pushing along a mellow theme reminiscent of some of Oliver Nelson’s or Andrew Hill’s writing. “Guzzle” has flute and cello leading the group in a placid Arabian setting, “Do The Wiggle” is a tight New Orleans brass band funk shuffle, and “Kooky Spooks” is a lovely waltz feature for the piano of Deanna Witkowski and the trumpet of Percy Pursglove. The five short pieces that alternate with these are tantalizing little fragments that could have easily gone longer, like “Stories,” an overdubbed clarinet and baritone sax fugue or “The Ghost Of Col. Cobb,” a nice taste of Blues played by violin, cello, and a shamisen riffing madly like a banjo. I’d like to hear these tiny pieces worked into something longer. Maybe Fox will get around to that later but he still shows plenty of composing and arranging skills on this CD.
João Paulo – Memórias de Quem (CF 075)
Delivers a striking acoustic performance, albeit in a more rarefied setting. The pianist performs nine of his own compositions for solo piano (mi alma / ramagem / o incendio / durme / fantasmas / atraves / memorias de quem / soneto de Renato / ritspah. 56:24, Torres Novas, Portugal.) I can’t say to what extent these are through composed or improvised. I lean toward the composed side with some ad-libbed elaboration. Certainly, though, “fantasmas” with its insistent quick walking bass comes off as most spontaneous, and most like Jazz in quite a Tristano-like manner. Elsewhere several compositions draw on folk elements, Portuguese and Jewish (Sephardic?), to striking effect. “O incendio” is a raging affair and “soneto de Renato,” more meditative. In the end the timing of the inspiration matters little. This is a well-conceived, well-executed program of solo piano.
Wishful Thinking – Wishful Thinking (CF 078)
Wishful Thinking is a group of players from different parts of Europe who all (except the drummer) get to bring their own compositions to a fun session. There is a flavor of the bands of South African pianist Chris McGregor present in that the rhythm section seems to vibrate with energy throughout the session, creating a big raucous sound. Pianist Alex Maguire is the hero here threading through the tangle of horns and thick rhythm in constant motion. Trumpeter Johannes Kreiger and tenor player Alipio C. Neto have compelling moments all over the place while Ricardo Freitas’ viscous electric bass and Rui Goncalves’ noisy drums bring intriguing off-center rhythms to the party. Settings range from semi-abstract funk on “Hina’s Fate” and “Electrico 28” to crisp soul playing on “Buffalo Bill” and hurried, off-kilter balladry on “443” and “Bundawar.” All five men rarely seem to be playing all at the same tempo at the same time but the slightly off-center mix works in their favor. Whatever different things are going on the overall sound holds together. I have no idea how they achieve this but what should be a ramshackle mess sounds compelling throughout. It’s definitely worth listening to.
Shoup/Burns/Radding/Campbell – The Levitation Shuffle (CF 073)
From the ’70s onward, free improvisation in the U.S. has always depended on regional scenes to provide vital outposts. This recording features reed player Wally Shoup, one of the stalwarts of free playing on the fringes. In the early ’80s he was part of a Birmingham, Alabama-based collective along with Davey Williams and LaDonna Smith. But since the mid ’80s, he’s been based in the Seattle area, serving as both organizer, mentor, and creative focal point. This recording captures a studio session with Shoup, long-time collaborators Reuben Radding (originally from Seattle but nowbased in N.Y.) and Greg Campbell, as well as young pianist Gust Burns. The reeds, piano, bass, and drums lineup draws connections to the Free Jazz vocabulary, but the four musicians are more aligned with the extensions of European free improvisation. The collective improvisations have a flow based less on a pulse-based trajectory than it does on the shifting, overlapping courses charted by the players. Shoup’s acidic alto provides a commanding focus; slipping from keening cries to gruff, insistently stabbing vigor to shredded overtones. Burns plays with an angular abstraction leavened with an effective, light touch. His sheets of notes break in brittle shards against Radding’s muscular free melodicism. Campbell skitters around his kit, tempering thundering energy with the multi-textured sound of small percussion instruments. Over the course of the set, the group drives toward a potent collective sound. It’s hard to believe that this is their first meeting. Based on this session it is a setting that shows plenty of potential for further explorations.