Pianist Rob Clearfield is no stranger to the bandstand, but his newest release marks an intentional step into the spotlight. The Chicago native has built up an impressive roster of releases and projects during his years on the city’s modern jazz scene—he’s released two other albums under his own name (one quintet and one solo album), he composed all the music for his band Information Superhighway, and you can catch him around town performing with Grazyna Auguscik, Matt Ulery, and Greg Ward, among others—but Islands, on ears&eyes Records, represents a conscious turning point in his career.
With bassist Curt Bley and drummer Quin Kirchner, Islands is an album built off the idea of freedom within limitation, a tension that appears both in the form of the trio and in improvisation within composition. Clearfield was inspired by a David Lynch quote about the necessity of rules in world-building—even in nonsensical world-building—and how those rules result in an almost ironic freedom. “[That idea] represents for me the balance between freedom and limitations in improvisation,” says Clearfield. “When you embrace the world that the composition has already created, you can be free to simply explore and develop ideas. The narrative, the context, the construction: they're already there.”
Rob Clearfield - piano, electric piano, organ, guitar (Matt Ulery’s Loom, Hood Smoke, Outertown, Grazyna Auguscik, District 97)
Curt Bley - acoustic and electric bass (Hal Russell NRG Ensemble)
Quin Kirchner - drums (Wild Belle, In Tall Buildings, NOMO, Tomorrow Music Orchestra)