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Album Review

One of the greatest cultural blessings of the past century is the legacy of the popular song. No matter the passage of time or circumstance, the first few notes of a treasured standard has the power to set the heart soaring and the mind reflecting. An artist and musician whose personal resume is as stylistically expansive as his personal collection of influences, saxophonist Brandon Fields has, since the mid-1980s, built an impressive jazz discography upon an exciting blend of colorful originals and artful covers of be-bop and modern R&B classics. On the aptly titled Fields and Strings, Fields — working with an orchestra led and contracted by his wife Gina Kronstadt and the magnificent arrangements of Grammy winner Jorge Calandrelli — pays homage to a bygone era in modern music with new and inspired interpretations of 12 of his favorite all-time pieces. Not surprisingly, the project took shape as something of a family activity, with Mr. and Mrs. Fields acting as executive producers and Kronstadt — a veteran concertmaster whose strings have backed everyone from Sarah Vaughn to Earth, Wind & Fire — playing violin and contracting the orchestra. Kronstadt had worked extensively in the past with Jorge Calandrelli, well-known for his arrangements for such diverse artists as Yo-Yo Ma, Tony Bennett, Eddie Daniels, Gloria Estefan, and Barbra Streisand. Fields had always loved the arranger's unique and intricate combination of harmonic sophistication and overall beauty of presentation. A 40-piece string section (violin, violas, cello) creates masterful mood swings and atmospheres behind the principal quartet of Fields on alto, tenor, and soprano saxes, Alan Pasqua on piano, Dave Carpenter on bass, and Peter Erskine on drums. Fields and Strings begins with Fields' wistful soprano melody creating a dreamy counterpoint to the increasing rhythm of the strings on "Little Sunflower." He follows a soulful, sentimental take on "When Sunny Gets Blue" with a swaying, gently percussive waltz arrangement of "Misty" and a melancholy-graced "The Look of Love" (which moves from softly atmospheric to playful waltz and back again). On a sly, moody interpretation of Gershwin's "Summertime," Fields seduces with a subtle melody line over Carpenter and Erskine's hypnotic, shuffling bass and drum groove. The mood swings up on a brisk, jumpy variation of "I'll Remember April" entitled "I' ll Remember..." (featuring Fields's alto racing jubilantly against the multiple clarinet tracks of Dan Higgins). Then it eases back down for a moonlit, heavily orchestrated film score feeling on "Loverman." The quartet stirs up a lively, galloping rhythm and melody combination as the orchestra builds a sense of drama on "Stolen Moments," then conjures a Stanley Turrentine-flavored, soulful elegance on "Angel Eyes." The set concludes with Fields' eloquent sax wrapped in a rich orchestral caress on the always magical "What a Wonderful World."

Biography

Born: 1958 in Indiana

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

A talented altoist influenced by David Sanborn, Brandon Fields has the versatility to be able to play both R&B/crossover and hard bop. Fields grew up in Orange County, CA, and started playing alto when he was ten. A freelance musician since he was a teenager, Fields moved to Los Angeles in 1982 and has worked steadily ever since. He toured with George Benson in 1985, was a...
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Fields and Strings, Brandon Fields
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