Ken Field is an adventurous sax and percussion man who stunned listeners in 1996 with the fabulously strange Subterranea, an album that featured multitracked sax pieces with rapid-fire percussion on everything from suitcases to juice cans. Although the work was experimental, it wasn't silly. In fact, it managed to combine serious compositional work with a playful inventiveness that anyone could enjoy.
Playfulness is not a new theme for Field. As a member of the avant-rock band Birdsongs of the Mesozoic and a composer who has written pieces for Sesame Street, he knows how to have fun. Field's latest release doesn't wander as close to the edge as his debut solo effort, but it is still pretty inventive. The "found object" percussion and multitracked saxophones have been replaced this time with more carefully composed, ensemble-based music. Most of the music on Pictures in Motion was selected from a series of saxophone trios and quartets that Field composed during a 1997 residency in Wyoming. Amy Denio and Jessica Lurie join him on many of the pieces. Both women used to play together in the eclectic Billy Tipton Memorial Saxophone Quartet a few years ago, and they are more than capable of taking the music where it needs to go. It's a good thing, too, because the music on this recording features a wide range of musical styles, including acid jazz, meditation, hip-hop, minimalism, swing, and Balkan processional music.
Somehow, Field manages to sew all of these disparate elements together into something that makes sense. On "Confluence Suite," the music goes through a series of personality changes before snapping to an end. In "Some Things Reconsidered," he takes the theme from the NPR show All Things Considered and stretches it out until it's almost unrecognizable. Amid all this eclectic work is a stunningly beautiful cover of Bill Evans's mournful "Time Remembered." While Pictures in Motion is not as inventive as Subterranea, it will still appeal to a lot of the same avant-garde crowd that originally discovered Ken Field. At the same time, this new release will go over well with people who wouldn't ordinarily listen to avant-garde music.