Saxophonist Brandon Fields has long been fond of all manner of jazz material. But associations with groups like the Rippingtons and Anonymous, a wealth of recording sessions and groups like his seven-piece hard-bop-meets-jazz-funk band have generally provided the bulk of his employment. Until recently.
The talented and versatile horn man has released “Fields & Strings,” a first-rate recording where he plays mostly standards in the company of pianist Alan Pasqua, bassist Dave Carpenter, drummer Peter Erskine and a 20-piece string section. In support, Fields has been appearing with a quartet, playing pieces from the album and discovering a different side of himself.
“It feels better to be in a more acoustic environment. I’m not so reliant on the P.A. or a microphone, and I can hear more of my sound,” said Fields, 41, who plays Wednesday with Pasqua, Carpenter and drummer Dave Weckl at Rocco in Bel-Air. “I’m having a great experience playing this music.”
On the album, telling string arrangements written by the renowned Jorge Calandrelli surround Fields. This setting cannot be duplicated in a club, so the saxophonist emphasizes other essentials from the record.
“We honor parts of the arrangements, such as the reharmonizations or the rhythmic interpretations,” said Fields, from his North Hollywood studio.
“Other than that, it’s a pretty wide open, freewheeling quartet, something I can really dive into. In that sense, it’s a lot freer than the record. I’m totally pleased at the guys’ level of invention. It’s really inspiring to me.”
Fields’ current interest in standards is providing some off-the-bandstand benefits, too.
“I feel freed in terms of composing, say, by acknowledging the validity of a song form and writing a tune off of that,” he said. “And I’m also thinking of making the focus of my seven-piece band more acoustic.”
DRUMS AND MORE: When former Valley resident Gerry Gibbs arrives from his New York home to play Rocco tonight and Saturday, he will appear with multi-instrumentalists Greg and Pamela Kurstin and avant-garde saxophone hero Arthur Blythe. The all-star gang will enthusiastically investigate such 1970s classics as McCoy Tyner’s “Free as the Wind” and Herbie Hancock’s “Actual Proof,” as well as Blythe originals.
Brandon Fields plays Wednesday from 9:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. at Rocco Ristorante, 2930 Beverly Glen Circle, Bel-Air. $8 cover, no minimum. Call (310) 475-9807.
Zan Stewart writes about jazz for the Valley Edition. He can be reached at Zansky@AOL.com.