Satoko Fujii Orchestra: Double Take

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Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii has grabbed plenty of attention in the cutting edge jazz community. After briefly studying classical music, she came to America and breezed through the Berklee College of Music and New England Conservatory. Her mentors have included Paul Bley and George Russell, and along with her Japanese heritage and classical background produced a talented pianist. That fact is evidenced on her solo outing Indication (Libra Records 1996), whereas her fondness for Downtown jazz and the new avant-garde comes through on Looking Out Of The Window, a 1997 Japanese release for Nippon Crown. Recorded with bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Jim Black, Fujii showcases a style that has digested both Keith Jarrett and Cecil Taylor.

Her ambitious orchestra project, a two CD affair, recorded mostly the same compositions by two different orchestras, one from the US, the other with all Japanese musicians. Two shots at any large ensemble get together are rare these days, but two almost differing cultural perspectives are an admirable undertaking. Like Godzilla vs. the Terminator, or Hideo Nomo pitching to Mark McGwire, it’s East matching West.

She gives us American jazz. To be more precise, Downtown jazz. Fujii is a sort of 21st century Frank Zappa. She likes to muck it up. Start. Stop and turn phrases on their head. These two CDs are almost beyond description because of the amount of information packed into two- plus hours of music.

The West disc has a now familiar cast of New York insiders; Chris Speed (Bloodcount), Briggan Krause, Curtis Hasselbring (Either/Orchestra), Steve Bernstein (Sex Mob), Cuong Vu, Tony Malaby (Vinny Golia) along with DJ Firehouse adding the turntable to the orchestra mix. My ignorance of Japanese jazz musicians is hopefully forgivable. I look at Double Take as a fresh perspective on Fujii’s material. The only conclusion I can draw between East and West versions is the Japanese stick closer to the tradition of jazz or at least the tradition of avant-jazz orchestras. There is much to digest, all first class music, musicians and improvising. Repeated listens are not only necessary, but also required.

Track List East Disc:South Wind; The Desert; The South Pole; The Outer Space; The Megalopolis; Okesa-Yansado; Sola-Sky.

Personnel: Satoko Fujii

Record Label: Ewe Records

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream

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