Satoko Fujii is a prolific composer. Her writing has manifested itself in several projects used to launch her music, Junk Box being one of them. This is the group's second recording and it sees an expansion of the concept she calls composed improvisation, or "Com-Impro," that appeared on its first recording, Fragment (Libra, 2006). It is her form of musical notation that includes writing and some graphics, leaving the musicians to use any notes to express the compositions and free to improvise as they like.
The concept is interesting, though it has been worked on before through different approaches and points of view. Technique may have its fill, but what counts is how the music is finally translated in terms of creativity.
Fujii, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura and percussionist John Hollenbeck work well together. They take Fujii's themes and shape them into odd structures that keep evolving into different patterns. Yet, even as they shape them in terms of individual vision, there is a logic and cohesion to the development of the theme.
Several of the tunes rise from a discernible melody. Fujii writes catchy themes, but the greater ambit is improvisation. Hollenbeck sets up a nice tempo on "Chilly Wind," while Fujii details the melody at length. Tamura, however, skittles all over, his trumpet convoluting and snaking lines. Fujii and Hollenbeck up the charge and the atmosphere turns electric.
Tamura and Fujii set up a conversation on "Back and Forth." Tamura is animated while Fujii goes in the other direction, playing open-ended, reflective notes. She is not one to be hurriedthat is until Hollenbeck adds some energizing percussion. Once more the tempo takes off and all three are animated.
The rumbling of drums and percussion, the scraping of the piano strings, the breathy swoosh of the trumpet, all testify to "Alligators Running in the Sewers." Once the head has been established, Fujii brings in the melody as Tamura squeezes notes from the trumpet and drops brawny yelps.
"Con-Impro" gets its due, but intuition and empathy have the final say.
Personnel: Natsuki Tamura: trumpet; Satoko Fujii: piano; John Hollenbeck: percussion.