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Dale Fielder Reviews


Dale Fielder FIELDER'S CHOICE 02/18/1999 Atlanta Creative Loafing
Fielder’s Choice
By James Rozzi

The Atlanta International Jazz Society needs you---and four score like you. Then it’ll really be up and running. In the meanwhile, head hipster Robert Carmack continues to plug away at it, chiseling his little niche in a town that thinks jazz is any music without words/with a saxophone. Sad, isn’t it? Three and a half million people strong, and any saxophone will do . . .

Those with a taste for the finer instrumentalists tend to present themselves at Churchill Grounds ---one of Atlanta’s only real jazz haunts. Small as it may be, CG is an oasis for which we’re grateful, and when a saxophonist such as Dale Fielder (sponsored by the AIJS) takes the stand, we tend to forget there’s anything else but great music. Cozy up to the bar on a chilly night, order a cup of java laced with your favorite spirits and let the music take you away from it all. Fielder nurtures that ability.

As recent recipient of first place in the “BET On Jazz” Top Instrumental Performance competition, Dale Fielder is a hard-working improviser who knows his way around his horns. Alto, tenor and soprano are his axes of choice --- all played with the same high degree of emotional outpouring. One of Fielder’s most endearing qualities is his inherent rawness. He can play very smoothly if he chooses, but seldom goes that way. Close listening prompts an understanding of just how complete a package this L.A. sax man tends to be. Whether exploring an oblique 5/4 original such as "Troubadour Dreams" or the standard chestnut "Diane", Fielder’s lines always manage fruition, but his style demands that they stray out in left field, just missing the foul pole. Hey, its Fielder’s choice, but it’s impossible not to appreciate what he’s doing: shoot from the hip. Some of the finest saxophonists in jazz history --- namely Jackie McLean and Eric Dolphy have held this same command. The jazz world could use a few more free-blowing free agents like Fielder.

The Atlanta-based rhythm section accompanying Fielder did our big small town proud. On numerous originals from Fielder’s latest CD, "Romance Serenade", drummer Jimmy Jackson read no charts, but played in a manner suggesting hours of rehearsal (in fact, no more than one short rehearsal prefaced this gig). He kicked the hell out of the swingers and laid low on a pair of subtle ballads. Bassist Anthony Chatman is near calling Atlanta home once again --- a move back that we anticipate with open arms. His full-bodied bass rang with a fierce understanding of the history of this music. Adroit ostinado into a cruising four, Chatman walks up a storm, but has his own rhythmic ideas thrown into the mix. Pianist Kenny Banks never sounded better. His mastery of accompaniment has been honed through years of gospel and jazz vocals, but on this night his soloing presents a complete dossier of understated brilliance. When it’s his turn to solo, Banks gets in, says it succinctly, then gets out without one extraneous note. Sublime.

Nights like these are not easily forgotten. The sounds preserve well within the folds of countless neurons, always there for the taking.