. Put them together, however, not such a stretch considering that they are father and son, and a kind of history of black music in America spreads out like a highway. This road leads from the territory bands of the '30s and '40s to the national popularity of swing to the development of R&B, soul, and funk music. As a young man,
played a range of saxophones in his father's bands.
combined the swing repertoire with R&B and jump blues styles in the '50s, coming up with a massive hit in 1959 with a cover version of
By the time his father retired in 1966, Fields Jr.
was already well established as a bandleader, producer, and talent scout. He's a fine example of the horn player who is much more than that, often lending considerable assistance to whatever bandleader is employing him in a variety of areas. In the early '70s, the career of the great blues singer Bobby "Blue" Bland
was bogged down in booze and bad musicians. Fields Jr.
, collaborating with producer Steve Garrie, is credited with pulling Bland
out of the bland and totally revitalizing his career. While making some of his own goofy records in the '70s, of which "Avenging Disco Godfather" is one of the more memorable titles, Fields Jr.
was best known as a collaborator. His associations include great soul performers such as the late Marvin Gaye
and the eventually rehabilitated Rick James
; as a top Hollywood studio contractor through the '80s, Fields Jr.
took part in countless recording sessions, some of them uncredited.
The swing revival of the '90s brought Fields Jr.
much pleasure as a saxophonist, allowing him a chance to revisit the music he had originally played with his father. He also began touring in the modern funk band of trombonist Fred Wesley
, the addition of bagpipes to the saxophonist's arsenal of instruments in keeping with the general weirdness of Wesley
's recording of "Wuda Cuda Shuda" provides a taste of Fields Jr.
on bagpipes, an instrument previously associated in jazz with only a few players such as Rufus Harley
and Albert Ayler
. Sister Carmen Fields is a television journalist.