While looking for a point of light helping me through a better assimilation of Five Frozen Eggs‘ refined complexity (and considering that I hadn’t listened to the original 1996 release) my eye fell on a quasi-nonchalant clue thrown by the nominal leader in the liners: all seven pieces were created following methods engendered by the mind of composer Stephen Dembski. Hopefully Fields will forgive the rapid investigations made to fill the umpteenth gap in my presumed knowledge, but now the conceptualization of the intentions lying behind this work appears clear: Dembski is a stalwart at the University of Wisconsin-Madison music faculty and — among diverse talents — a man who constantly looks for new ways (including the development of softwares) to generate broad-minded compositional structures. Fields, a regular collaborator, has always been concerned with tearing down the damp walls that delimit jazz and other varieties of artistic contemporariness. All of a sudden this reviewer realized that the suppositional reticence fought over the course of the first half-dozen of listens was instead merely screening a series of transparent interactions in a small universe where contrapuntal fungibility is the (flexible) criterion to follow.
The rest came easy. Marilyn Crispell courteously reclaims a role of co-protagonist thanks to her chordal radiancy imbued of classily radical obstinance. Hans Sturm has the honor of opening the album with a splendid solo (entirely notated, as stressed by Fields), then keeps nourishing the lowermost of the audio spectrum with a combination of drama and logicality. Hamid Drake impressively dissects the motoric principles, exploring secret erogenous zones in the music’s animate organic qualities, stroking and tapping a fine-grained fresco that spreads across the program, remaining nearly silent when he feels like. There are several atmospheric and stylistic changes in here — from the contemplation of the title track and “Laogai” to the discordant march of “Little Soldiers For Science”, the lone place where the tolerant boss utilizes a modicum of distortion. The only traces of prototypical swing are found in “The Archaeopteryx and the Manatees”, quieted afterwards by a gorgeous lyrical interlude. Enough words, already: just enjoy the intelligence of a quartet for which the definition “acoustic facade” will never exist.