Talk about saxophone playing in Baltimore and before long you're going to be talking about Mickey Fields. I was recently interviewed by some folks from the Baltimore Jazz Alliance who are putting together a book about the history of jazz in Baltimore (or "Charm City" as it is sometimes referred to), my home town. So I got to speak about Mickey and in doing so he's been on my mind lately.
Mickey (who passed in 1995) was emblematic of a special type of musician, the home town hero who could have gone on to fame in the music but decided to remain at home. I regret that the the history of jazz does not do better service to local scenes and players who while not well known outside of their hometowns played a great role in the development of the music. Often we read interviews with one or another of the greats who will reference a name or two of someone who greatly influenced them. Often that player was someone who did not record much if at all and not much is usually found out beyond these informal anecdotes.
So I am very pleased that Mickey Fields will get some of his "due" in this upcoming publication. More on that when it comes out. Suffice it to say that Mickey was a warm and generous man who provided much encouragement to us younger musicians coming up and demonstrated night after night in just about every club in town just how it's done. The fact that he could hold his own with Sonny Stitt was a matter of strong local pride. The fact that he did not record much is lamentable. He had a gutsy sound and delivery and possessed a sophisticated knowledge of blues and bebop. I once recall hearing Mickey at a neighborhood club filling the room with an enormously raw sound while romping through the changes of some uptempo tune. It was as if I was hearing Albert Ayler play bebop.
The only recording I have of Mickey was done considerably earlier than that and evidences the quintessential type of Mickey Fields experience enjoyed by so many in Baltimore back in the day. It's a 1971 LP called "The Astonishing Mickey Fields" that is beyond rare and hard to find. Here's a track, "Lover Man"...