Satoko Fujii's daring electicism has marked every encounter since her debut recording with Paul Bley in 1996. She has demonstrated a fearless openness to stylistic freedom that makes everything she's done in the last five years difficult to categorize. Quite simply, the pianist does not fit into any neat little boxes. On April Shower,
she joins promiscuous in-and-out violinist Mark Feldman for a workout of free and lyrical tunes that flow together to form a patchwork quilt of improvisation. Feldman is particularly adventurous here, and he finds a welcome partner willing to spur his explorations forward. It's hard to believe the violinist was a successful Nashville studio musician during the early '80s; his playing has abandoned the catchy regularity of country for the lilt and spark of free improvisation (though every once in a while you'll catch him pulling snippets out of the memory banks).
The fifteen tracks on April Shower include four solo piano performances, four "piano + piano" pieces, and seven duets. When Fujii has the stage to herself, she tends to explore a lush, lyrical sound. With Feldman, she tends to operate more in the realm of abstract adventurism, though certain pieces (like "Then I Met You") offer a more instrospective approach. It's interesting to check out the contrasts between the piano pieces and the violin duets. Without a partner, Fujii plays almost as if she has two voices. But Feldman's full-tilt explorations of tone, color, melody and density tend to pull Fujii into clustery punches and detours inside the piano. Among contemporary pianists, Fujii has a remarkably expansive musical vision. Her work gets stronger with each record, as she finds new ways to bring disparate concepts together into a coherent whole. April Shower marks a welcome step forward in Fujii's musical evolution. Though you might have trouble finding this Japanese release, it's well worth the effort.
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Personnel: Satoko Fujii: piano; Mark Feldman: violin.