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Brandon Fields

Brandon Fields

Although Los Angeles saxophonist Brandon Fields is best known for his smooth-jazz sessions, the 42-year-old has always needed to feed his hunger for mainstream material. Brandon Fields & Strings (PRC Records) steps in with 11 standards and one original. “Smooth jazz has not really panned out for me,” he says. “Overall, I feel it’s a very limiting genre: it just promotes more sameness among players.”

As fate would have it, though, smooth jazz pied piper Kenny G was thinking along the same lines when releasing his Classics in the Key of G several months earlier. “Although I’m very happy that I feel they are different treatments and the whole vibe is different from his project,” Fields says, “there is still some trepidation when somebody comes out with an album of standards and we pick it up and see three of the same songs we recorded [‘What a Wonderful World,’ ‘Summertime’ and ‘The Look of Love’].”

No matter. Fields is pleased with the CD, and it’s an engaging work, split between eight arrangements for strings, two for quartet and two for trio, the quartet and trio selections emphasizing Fields’ passion for hard bop. Joining Fields are pianist Alan Pasqua, bassist Dave Carpenter and drummer Peter Erskine. The project also features the Gina Kronstadt Strings, arranged and conducted by Jorge Calandrelli. Kronstadt should be familiar with Fields’ work-they met during Fields’ stint on Joan Rivers’ late night TV show and have now been married 11 years. In fact, Fields & Strings is truly a family affair: In addition to providing moral support and encouragement, Fields’ parents, Floyd and Zana, supplied financial backing and are credited as executive producers. “We actually went into this with the idea to create an album of beautiful music,” Fields says. “We were driving north to a New Year’s Eve gig and discussing an album using Gina’s strings and a format of standards. Stuff that we felt crossed a couple generations but also kept within the realm of songs that either influenced me or I felt I could do justice to.”

Originally Published