With seemingly endless energy and a bottomless well of inspiration, pianist Satoko Fujii continues to celebrate her fiftieth birthday year with three new recordings, all three simultaneously released on Libra. Chun
, a duo recording with trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, her husband and musical partner and two big band releases, one West and the other EastSummer Suite
(New York) and Sanrei
Fujii's music is a delicious mix of opposites: melody and pure sound, intense energy and calm introspection, audible flowing structure and freedom, to name a few. There is joy, fearlessness and not a little humor in her performances, allowing them to be approached from any number of angles; she pours herself completely into every note, crash and gesture played on the piano's inside or its keys.
Tamura is her perfect foil in that he experiments continuously with the sounds he can get out of his trumpet as well as be the leader of his own groups, in which Fujii plays, with the roles reversed. The two obviously know each other well, and, despite Tamura's admissions that "he hates to practice," but "...Fujii has been writing works that force me to practice a lot" and that "I have never once played these tunes flawlessly (sorry)," his playing is full of conviction and extreme sensitivity to Fujii's every gesture.
The pieces, all by Fujii, range from those with discrete, rhythmically complex themes and clear structure (i.e. having some kind of thematic declamation-improvisation-recap) to pure soundscapes that are on the edge of notated music, including the last, twenty-one minute track, "Triangle."
Fujii's fearlessness demands some effort from the listener, but once inside, the inherent logic of her music as it plays out, becomes almost a comfort. The freedom is heard as an extension of, rather than a departure from, the structure. Her style creates many corners and detours, giving the music a density even in the sparser pieces.
Fujii is very much a musician of the "now" and each recording, although related chronologically to its peers, stands alone, providing a snapshot of her musical thinking at the moment. However, some compositions, like "Spiral Staircase," appear on other albums, in this case, Heat Wave
(Not Two, 2008).
The difference in the treatment of this tune between Chun
and Heat Wave
goes way beyond instrumentation, and provides further insight in the composition's essentials and Fujii's improvisational method. Listening to the two versions side-by-side is not only a lot of fun, but very informative.
Another gem in the bulging Fujii discography, Chun
opens up another viewpoint into the highly creative world of Satoko Fujii and Natsuki Tamura.