The term “player’s album” is often a too easy go-to phrase to describe spirited, freewheeling interactions between musicians, but in the case of inventive, ultra-eclectic guitarist Matt Panayides’ sometimes melodic and swinging, often angular and offbeat and loaded with trippy avant-garde vibes (some of which are sonically and thematically impressions of another planet), it’s a spot on description.
Some of the terms used in the promo materials use phrases only other musicians would understand – but the Googling is endlessly fascinating for the rest of us who are just enjoying the mood swinging adventures and fiery improvisations. Words and phrases like “ostinato,” “tone row,” “chromatic melody,” “straight-eighth,” “perfect 5th” and “sine wave” will keep you intrigued as you follow the twists and turns of Panayides, Matt Vashlishan (wind synth), Rich Perry (tenor sax), Robert Sabin (bass) and Mark Ferber (drums) – all of whom have the proverbial mile long all-star jazz resumes.
The good news is, you don’t have to be a music techie to appreciate the offbeat magic their seamless, dynamic chemistry creates. Field Theory, conceived out of Panayides’ experiments with the sonic possibilities using guitar pedals and woodshedding with Vashlishan, gives these cats a lot of space to experiment when they’re not servicing the guitarist’s handful of memorable melodies – which are most prominent on lush ballads like “Closer Now” (a slow rolling blues) and slightly whimsical “Looking Round Corners.” Perhaps the most mainstream post-bopper in the bunch is the perfectly titled “Energy Mover,” which features breakneck solos, one after the other, by each member of the group.
If weird and way out is your thing, feel free to dive into the random sketches and mind bending atonality of “2.27.20” and – if you need a little traveling music – take a trip to the fictional alien planet of Panayides’ jazz imagination, expressed in four fascinating, alternately atmospheric and bustling stages via his four part “Penta Folk” suite. In his liner notes, the guitarist writes “At any given moment, we all exist within numerous fields: space, sound or light.” Listening to the ear-popping, sounds like nothing else on the jazz planet Field Theory, we can say the same thing about Panayides and his always game ensemble.