Madison, Wisconsin acoustic guitarist Scott Fields, Vancouver, Canada clarinetist François Houle, and Ann Arbor, Michigan bassist Jason Roebke get together for 18 selections that have little to do with the title. Where you would expect polyphonic buzzing, you instead hear patient, respectful free improvisation, generally without time signatures, reflecting a deep emotional and spiritual center. Fields
has quite a clean tone, reminiscent of Ralph Towner
sans harmonics; Houle is very tonal and melodic; while Roebke ably fills in cracks, sets occasional rhythmic preludes, and gives the other two a sounding board to bounce ideas off of. Five of the pieces are spontaneous compositions: "Fur" is a skittish shortie; "Furrier" is calm and loose' "Furious" is a snippet more steaming than livid; "Former" is reflective, and "For Her" is searching. Houle's compositions exude sheer beauty. "Second Degree of Light" features Roebke's two-note bass ostinato buoying a meditative guitar and clarinet; "Alliance" has a fluttery clarinet, with bass and guitar swirling about, and "Sheridan Snow" shows Houle in a pensive mood. Roebke also proves an intriguing composer. His "Last Long Love" has a beauty that rivals "Second Degree of Light"; "Places" displays the most melodic invention on this disc, but moves into pure improv; "In Life" works in an intro bass that sets up Houle's introspective clarinet; while "When She Speaks, She Speaks" is more hyperactive. Fields
does not stick to tonality. His piece "You Call That Constructive Criticism?" is a near-14-minute excursion through many changes, variations, and phases of improvisation, with raked guitar and overblown clarinet sounds. "Are You Now or Have You Ever Been..." has sawing bass and clarinet-pad pops leading to a choppy march beat. "Put That Hose Away" again returns to melodic interplay, with clarinet on top. The spontaneity of the trio has an edge, yet is eminently listenable. There's some real-world psychodrama and even-keeled peacefulness taking place throughout this fine recording, which sports a vision and clarity lacking in the some of the noisier, less musical avant-garde. Recommended.