Thursday, May 12, 2011

Scott Fields, Electric Guitar, Matthias Schubert, Tenor Sax, in Some Worthy Avant Duets: "Minaret Minuets"

I am not overly familiar with either Scott Fields, electric guitarist, or Matthias Schubert, tenorist, but after hearing their duet offering Minaret Minuets (Clean Feed 213) a number of times, I must say that they've made an impression on me that wont be easily eradicated. A good impression, I mean.

Scott contributes the compositions, all save one, which is by Matthias. In those charts/routines I hear the constructive influence of Anthony Braxton and Roscoe Mitchell, especially in the darting about asymmetrically through register skips and jumps, and the repetition of tone and sound color phrases--as both a compositional tact and a means to gradually launch into related improvisational work. There isn't just some sort of imitation; these elements are creatively integrated into the Fields-Schubert duet dynamic. And they are made to springboard the artists into solid avant improvisatory territory where their own personal identities come to the fore. Plus there are other compositional elements that move the music in other directions as well. The point is that the compositional frameworks are strong, memorable, and a great way to structure the freedom of the improvisations.

Both Fields and Schubert have developed sound and style inventiveness on their instruments to a fine point. These are originals, both. Fields, perhaps in part because there are relatively few avant electricians in the guitar realm who successfully develop and sustain indentities of their own, has the greater impact on my ears. He plays irregular and unusual phrases with great fluidity, can vary the articulation of attack in many subtle ways, and his melodic-harmonic sensibility is woven into a whole, unified cloth. Schubert shares with Fields a tumble-and-turn rhythmic feel that serves both well. He is adept at coming up with pivotal figures that set things up for a Fields improvisation (and vice versa) and he maintains throughout a sure-footed robust or whispering tenor attack and an extremely fertile variational imagination.

The two together are remarkable in many ways, but especially for me in the way they flow ideas together without strict tempo or even without any tempo whatsoever. Their duets move along in ways that make sense and bring listener appreciation to a high level.

These are without a doubt some of the most interesting and successful sax-guitar avant improvisations I have had the pleasure to hear. I hope the two do more and continue to work together in duet and with other sympatico players. Definitely recommended!

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