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Saxman Fields Puts Mimicry Aside : Noted for his ability to sound like other artists, he seeks situations where he can be himself.

April 23, 1993|ZAN STEWART | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Zan Stewart writes regularly about jazz for The Times.

In the past, saxophonist Brandon Fields used to get a lot of mileage out of the fact that he could pretty much imitate the saxophone sound of the popular musician David Sanborn in the recording studios.

These days, the 33-year-old North Hollywood resident, who says he never has been strictly a Sanborn clone, feels that it's a lot more important to be known for his own playing, so he's avoiding situations that lead to comparisons to a player such as Sanborn. Which means less studio work and selecting playing spots that highlight his individuality.

There's also less income. But Fields, who has appeared on more than 125 albums with such artists as Nancy Wilson, the Rippingtons, David Benoit and Alex Acuna, says the focus on his own career is worth the financial drawbacks.

"In the studios, they want you to sound like the hottest player of the moment," said Fields, who leads his quintet tonight and Saturday at Le Cafe in Sherman Oaks. "And people have gotten a limited picture of what I do. But even if I risk reaching fewer people by the nature of my own music, hopefully there'll be a payoff in that the audience will enjoy my own brand of jazz."

Fields is a versatile artist. He enjoys many styles and can play anything from tender ballads to gutsy funk-based tunes with persuasion. And he would like to see that style grow. He's looking to add more acoustic moments to what has been expression around electric instruments.

"I was influenced by R & B singers as well as people like pianist McCoy Tyner and trumpeters Freddie Hubbard and Woody Shaw," Fields said. "And I instilled these influences in my electric band playing. Now I feel more comfortable with my own voice, my own approach, which has only come by being in situations where people ask me to sound like myself."

But changes have to come gradually, he said. "I'm always looking for more influences and different ways to express myself while understanding that your audience expects you to sound somewhat the same each time you play."

Fields, who has lived in the San Fernando Valley for a decade, has recorded four albums on the Nova label. The latest is last year's "Everybody's Business."

He says his program will be a mix of older tunes, such as "Bullfunk," off his initial release, "The Other Side of the Story," and newer selections that are more in the vein of the classic Miles Davis quintet of the '60s.

The saxophonist said he will get plenty of help in this effort from his cohorts, including Walt Fowler, trumpet; David Garfield, keyboards; Tim Landers, bass, and Gregg Bissonette, drums.

"I'm always trying to put myself with players I respect that are searching for the same thing that I am," he said. "I want good interaction, a good musical dialogue, not just the regular, 'Go to the gig, play the melodies, play the solos and go home.' "

Garfield says he enjoys Fields' musicality: "He's got a good sound, and ability to adapt to a lot of different musical environments. And he's got soul."

Fields is also appearing Tuesday with Anonymous--including Fowler, saxman Albert Wing and guitarist Mike Miller--at the Baked Potato in North Hollywood.

Where and When What: Brandon Fields at The Room Upstairs at Le Cafe, 14633 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. Hours: 9 and 11 tonight and Saturday night. Price: $10 cover; two-drink minimum. Call: (818) 986-2662. What: Brandon Fields plays with Anonymous at the Baked Potato, 3787 Cahuenga Blvd., North Hollywood. Hours: 9:30 p.m. Tuesday. Price: $8 cover; two-drink minimum. Call: (818) 980-1615.

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