Scott Fields Ensemble: Mamet

It takes more than 12 minutes for Scott Fields Ensemble’s Mamet to really start. Sure, there is sound on the opener, “Prairie du Chien,” before that-percussive plucks by guitarist Fields, arco scratches by bassist Michael Formanek, compact and free taps by drummer Michael Zerang-but it’s only after that long buildup that the music begins. When the music finally does start, Fields proves himself a talented though insular improviser, somewhat like Joe Morris at his most self-focused. Fields plays cleaned-toned, single-line solos with occasional double-stops; his lines tend to circle around short melodies until each variation is exhausted, creating a claustrophobic vibe.

His solo technique is somewhat like the David Mamet plays that Fields uses as his inspiration for the CD’s titles: Mamet’s characters often converse in brief, elliptical dialogues that circle back on each other like Abbott and Costello doing heavy drama. Unlike Mamet’s writing, though, there is little humor or true tension in Fields’ music, which tends toward completely free improvisation, with little or no contrapuntalism among the players. Tracks like “Edmond” and “American Buffalo” come and go like an off-Broadway play, leaving little impression in the process. “The Woods” begins with almost two minutes of silence before the faintest sounds gurgle to the surface, and then it’s all timbral effects for the next seven. The song continues for another 10, and actually picks up some steam for a few minutes, but “The Woods,” like Mamet, is a potentially funny joke with a big buildup and a so-so punch line.