Moving from his early inspirations of Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page, Matt discovered jazz in high school and has expanded those horizons ever since. In 2018, he began work with Matt Vashlishan, a multi woodwind artist who gained fame working in Dave Liebman's band and who plays the Akai EWI (electric wind instrument). Together, with Panayides on electric guitar and Vashlishan on electric wind instruments, the present album began to develop.
With Panayides and Vashlishan, the band on Field Theory are Rich Perry on tenor sax (with 23 albums as a leader), Robert Sabin on bass (having appeared with Bob Mintzer and Donny McCaslin), and Mark Ferber (Nora Jones, Wadada Leo Smith, Fred Hersch, Lee Konitz) on drums. This is the band to paint the vision established by Panayides.
The entirety of Field Theory is a marvelous foray into musical and tonal expansion. The bent notes, the tight arrangements, the harmonies, and those brilliant improvisations make this one of the most intriguing albums of the year. Panayides and the band do not disappoint.
Kite Flying kicks off with a five stroke drum intro that coolly sets it all in motion. The melodic line is infatuating and the development of it is brilliant. Wait for the Vashlishan EWI. The rhythm section is smoking hot making this fun stuff.
Disturbance gets rolling with an imaginative arpeggio with guitar, bass, and sax. It reminds one of Disciple from the King Crimson glory days. Then comes the transition in Closer Now with its slower tempo but equally intoxicating guitar work, supplanting precision with polish, meter with melody.
The title track, Field Theory, is just as the title describes. Field theory is the psychological theory that examines the interaction between the individual and the environment. In physics, it explains physical phenomena and the way in which it interacts with other matter. In just that way, Panayides explores the interaction between the instruments individually and the way the individual interacts with the whole band or field. It is also an examination of human individual interaction with society, as in Gestalt psychological principles. Listen for it. You’ll see what I mean.
Looking ‘Round Corners is a return to the melodic and harmonic. This is one of those tunes that relentlessly catches the imagination. Then Energy Mover returns to the furious temps and interactions. Ferber gives a cool drum solo but it is Panayides’ fierce pick-strum approaches that seize the most attention. Think of Django Reinhardt at his coolest and Vashlishan’s tenor sax playing the Stephane Grappelli role and you get the idea. Sabin’s bass lines are deliberate and hot.
2.27.20 is the date on which the album was recorded. Just before the pandemic lockdowns. It is a demanding improv required from each of the musicians. Three minutes of sound and fury…signifying much.
The next four tracks are part of a suite called Penta Folk. It is an imaginative tale of visiting other-worldly people and the experiences of the encounter from Landing to Coalesce to Ascend and Depart. Highly thoughtful and expansive. I only with that the whole album was used to develop the ideas here. It’s that good.
The album comes to a close with the reflective Self Narrative. It opens with a five-note guitar exposition that returns throughout the piece. The saxophone takes a brief departure from the reflection and occasional guitar riffs depart then return to the motif. A thoughtful piece.
Field Theory is a fascinating and insightful album, full of thought-provoking and meditative compositions within a format of masterful artists who contribute as well as execute. With a look back to classic Jazz guitar and a look forward to what awaits Jazz guitar, Matt Panayides provides the prism through which we may look in wonder.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl