Jazzthetic review by Olaf Maikopf


Scott Fields Freetet – Bitter Love Songs (CF 102)
Elliott Sharp / Scott Fields – Scharfefelder (CFG 003)
Two new CDs from Chicago guitarist Scott Fields, who for the last five years has lived in Cologne, appear on the Lisbon label Clean Feed, which specializes in interesting improvisers. Fields is known from his work with Joseph Jarman, Hamid Drake, Mat Maneri, Marilyn Crispell, Michael Formanek, and Jeff Parker, all published on such small labels as Black Saint, Delmark, and Music and Arts. Sorry, I do not find the title Scharfefelder, the German translation of the surnames Sharp and Fields, the two guitarists, really funny. But perhaps this strict one-to-one translation is also absolutely serious, because this “new chamber music” is mostly provocative. There are many enjoyable sections that recall (in the most absorbing moments) Larry Coryell’s playing on “Spaces” and sudden chords that bring to mind medieval lute music. Extensive passionate improvisation exchanges, played exclusively on acoustic guitar, wild exuberance, delicate sensuality, abrupt breaks — probably this is meant to be provocative and is intended to challenge the listener. But, except for improvisation-obsessed guitarists and hardcore fans of the two whirling-dervish string-players, would someone find the introverted journey through Scharfefelder interesting? After nearly seventy minutes of this orgy of “crazy strumming” I began to feel the effort.

Quite different, on the other hand, is the effect of Bitter Love Songs. Also in the broad discipline of improvisational music, it captivates from the start. Fields is consistently dedicated to free-form jazz, as established by Ornette Coleman with his former guitarists James “Blood” Ulmer and Bern Nix. Its Harmolodic system was probably the model for these six pieces of organized disorder. Fields moves through steep and descending flight paths through linear interval series in this tradition of “reinterpretation of the method.” His two technically excellent colleagues Sebastian Gramss and the Portuguese João Lobo accompany the guitarist, overlapping with subtle, lively communications. This music is free, but also fascinatingly melodic, with strong blues roots — incredibly exciting.

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