How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
An explosive ensemble, Satoko Fujii’s 15-piece New York big band includes some of the world’s most creative improvisers working with powerful charts. A 1987 graduate of the Berklee College of Music in Boston and a 1996 graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music, Fujii exhibits forward-leaning elements of compositional style while allowing ample freedom for her soloists to stretch out. She’s a prolific pianist/composer with a half dozen recordings in the past four years and more to come.
"Kyu" swings with a Duke Ellington locomotive motion, allowing drummer Aaron Alexander to propel the unit with deliberation. Solos from tenor saxophone, alto saxophone, trumpet, trombone and electric bass turn the composition into a pleasant impromptu conversation. "Wakerasuka" is a wild and exciting improvised trombone feature with intriguing vocal chants from the band members alongside their instrumental support. "Sola" features a delicious wah-wah trumpet solo and thrilling through-composed orchestral storytelling, while "Around the Corner" creates a bagpipe effect for the brass sections before introducing dueling saxophonists. Pared down, "Jasper" begins as a clarinet, soprano saxophone and bass clarinet trio with a lively world beat rhythmic foundation. Eventually Alexander’s unique percussion sounds fill the room before the four voices come together to close it out. Although soloists aren’t identified, this highly recommended album of big band improvisation turns loose a spontaneous, individual creative force repeatedly and swings with variety while capturing the listener’s emotions.
Track Listing: Jo; Kyu; Okesa~Yansado; Wakerasuka; Reminiscence; Jasper; Around the Corner; Sola.
Personnel: Satoko Fujii- piano; Stomu Takeishi- electric bass; Aaron Alexander- drums; Oscar Noriega- alto saxophone, bass clarinet; Briggan Krauss- alto saxophone; Chris Speed- tenor saxophone, clarinet; David Castiglione- tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Mike Sim- baritone saxophone; Jack Walrath, John Carlson, Dave Ballou, Natsuki Tamura- trumpet; Joe Fiedler, Curtis Hasselbring, Joey Sellers- trombone.