The prolific and omnidirectional pianist/composer/bandleader Satoko Fujii premieres her "Com-Impro" concept with this recording by her Junk Box trio. She states: "I don't use traditional music notation... for these pieces. I use words and some graphic notation. Although this kind of notation is not so new for contemporary music, it is a new avenue for me to explore."
Junk Box brings percussionist John Hollenbeck together with Fujii and her long-time partner, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura. Methodology aside, the music created is full of vivid imagery, textural surprises, canny contrasts, subtle shadings, dollops of manic intensity and a healthy dose of humor. The latter is particularly effective in the surrealistic montage of "your neighbors." Snippets of Beethoven, Mendelssohn, "The Shadow of Your Smile" and "Anchors Aweigh" skitter amidst abstruse brass squiggles and a collage of rock, waltz and march rhythms.
Fujii's neighbors apparently have somewhat better taste than my neighbors do: the ubiquitous boom-boom-boom of gangsta rap less the voices is missing, though it's hinted at in her ominous low-register piano rumblings. "Getting Lost on a Snowy Day" and "At Intersection on a Rainy Day" appear to utilize laptop or some form of electronic manipulation of the acoustic sounds, although no mention is made of this in the credits. Tamura's mastery of extended techniques makes it difficult to say for sure what is produced by embouchure, wind and brass, and what is produced or altered by electronics. Fujii's inside-the-box hijinks similarly blur the line.
But it's the ends rather than the means that are important here. Tamura's breath control and purity of tonewhen he chooses to play more "conventionally" as on much of "looking out of the window"are phenomenal too. Junk Box is tripartite creativity at a very high level.
Personnel: Natuski Tamura: trumpet; Satoko Fujii: piano; John Hollenbeck: percussion.