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CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York: Shiki

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Even among established groupings Japanese composer and pianist Satoko Fujii continues to search for new means of expression. For the ninth disc from her New York Orchestra, Fujii departs from accustomed practice, particularly in the 36-minute plus title track which dominates proceedings. Truly orchestral in its scope, Fujii wields her composer's wand in a way which largely avoids some of the expected intricacy, in favour of more opaque connections, organically developed soundscapes and ragged choruses, from which the compositional signposts unexpectedly emerge. The loose painterly style recalls the trumpeter Bill Dixon's large scale works, in that the talented cast is ...

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Satoko Fujii & Natsuki Tamura: Gen Himmel / Dragon Nat / Tornado

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Pianist Satoko Fujii and her husband trumpeter Natsuki Tamura are one of the most boldly creative and fearlessly innovative couples in contemporary music. For the past three years they have also been quite prolific, releasing eight albums on their own Libra Records alone. This increase in productivity, however, has not come at the expense of quality or originality. Whether together in one of their regular groups or alone they continue to push the boundaries of improvisation and composition. Satoko Fujii Gen Himmel Libra Records 2013 On the unaccompanied piano session Gen Himmel, Fujii ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Satoko Fujii: Gen Himmel

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A solo album tends almost inevitably to focus on instrumental chops rather than compositional skills. And that's the way it is on Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii's third unaccompanied outing, following Sketches (NatSat, 2004) and Indication (Libra, 1997), although she shows herself to be blessed with both. Compared to the exuberance and spirit of her group work with outfits as diverse as Ma-do and Kaze, she presents what a very intimate and introspective side of her personality. In the liners Fujii recounts that she has been inspired by the passing of several close friends, which might explain the bright but melancholy ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Satoko Fujii Ma-Do: Time Stands Still

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Several months after this recording, bassist Norikatsu Koeyasu died of a heart-attack in-between tours. Pianist Satoko Fujii decided that the band could not continue without his presence, citing his vital role and “telepathic connection." Hence, Ma-Do's third album will be its last. It's an unfortunate occurrence but a testament to the musicians' realization that a replacement was not feasible. The quartet's unique method of seamlessly fusing rich melodic content with asymmetrical pulses and stewing developments, saddled within the freer realm, triggers a stylistic soundscape. With striking contrasts and deep-rooted dialogues, each piece stands on its own as a distinct entity. ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Satoko Fujii: Gen Himmel

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Satoko Fujii's notoriety is based on her originality, energy, and an unmatchable sense of fearlessness and adventure in the creation of music. As a leader of numerous ensembles--duos, trios, quartets, and big bands--she is a gregarious and generous spirit. Her music ebbs and flows, a moment of captivating serenity followed by a burst of a clamorous, sometimes riotous action. A gentile and pretty interlude followed by a flailing riot, with each band member giving as good as he or she gets.But when Fujii goes solo--and it's not often happened in her near- 20-year career, on Sketches (NatSat, 2004) ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Satoko Fujii New Trio: Spring Storm

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Back at the start of her career, Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii's reputation was considerably enhanced by her stellar trio with bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Jim Black. Together they waxed seven discs, with the last Trace A River (Libra) in 2008. Since then, the traditional piano trio hasn't appeared in her prodigious output, until the New Trio debuted here on Spring Storm. While perhaps not as virtuosic as their predecessors, bassist Todd Nicholson and drummer Takashi Itani bring open minds and singular personalities to the bandstand. Fujii's expansive writing presents lots of opportunities for both men.Equally through her ...

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Satoko Fujii's Ma-Do and New Trio: Time Stands Still and Spring Storm

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Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii is a prolific and versatile musician whose fast pace and relatively large volume are never at the expense of quality. In fact her improvisation heavy records are innovative and cerebral yet they maintain a certain, surprising, accessibility. She has recorded in settings ranging from solo to large orchestra and always with a refreshing variety of instrumentations. Two of her 2013 releases are Time Stands Still with her Ma Do quartet and Spring Storm with her new trio, both on her own label.Satoko FujiiTime Stands StillLibra2013Time Stands ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Satoko Fujii ma-do: Time Stands Still

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When asked why she has lead or co-lead so many different projects (23 at last count), pianist Satoko Fujii replied “It's like food. I don't like just Japanese food, but also Italian food, French food and so on, and I would soon get tired if I just ate Japanese food." If her ma-do quartet were to have a culinary equivalent it would certainly be tasty: something spicy with rich complex flavors. It's almost as if Fujii has so many ideas that she has to force as many as possible into every composition. Each cut screeches into handbrake turns of clashing ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Satoko Fujii Ma-Do: Time Stands Still

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In terms of CD releases, pianist Satoko Fujii passed the bandleader baton to her husband, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, in 2012, resulting in two exceptional albums on the Libra Records label: the trumpet/piano duo outing, Muku, and Forever, from Tamura's European folk music-flavored Gato Libre group. For the always prolific Fujii, a year without a release under her leadership is an oddity. The year 2013 is lining up differently, however, with the debut of the Satoko Fujii New Trio's Spring Storm and, now, from her Satoko Fujii Ma-Do Quartet, Time Stands Still.This is the third and, sadly, final installment ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Satoko Fujii New Trio: Spring Storm

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Some of jazz's finest, most innovative and adventurous music can be found in the piano trio format. The list of artists pushing the boundaries is a long one: Vijay Iyer; Hal Galper; Craig Taborn; Brad Mehldau and a good dozen more, conservatively. A name rarely mentioned in that group--in part, because she leads so many groups with different configurations (23, at last count), yet hasn't offered up a piano trio set since 2008--is Japanese-born pianist/bandleader Satoko Fujii.In addition to her prolific output with various ensembles, Fujii has seven piano trio sets with bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Jim ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Natsuki Tamura and Satoko Fujii: Muku

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It's surprising that trumpeter Natsuki Tamura and pianist Satoko Fujii--partners in music and life--have only recorded five duet CDs during the course of their incredibly prolific and artistically fecund collaboration. As Fujii wryly explains in her liner notes, each of their duet recordings is different--some are entirely freely improvised, others consist solely of compositions written by either Fujii or Tamura. The location--an important metric in the Fujii/Tamura universe--of each duet recording has also been different. Recorded in New York City, Muku consists of nine steely Tamura compositions played with incredible depth and sensitivity by these master musicians. Tamura's writing is ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Natsuki Tamura/Satoko Fujii: Muku

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The restlessly innovative husband and wife team of trumpeter Natsuki Tamura and pianist Satoko Fujii have produced some of the most intriguing and invigorating music to come out of Japan. Although rooted in the jazz idiom, their explorations are on universal themes, drawing upon a variety of inspirations. Their work is primarily improvised, but not in the sense of a blowing session and more within the permissive construct of melodic and unconventional compositions. More often than not, it is Fujii who pens the pieces on their albums, but on Muku--meaning “purity"-- it is Tamura who assumes the ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Natsuki Tamura / Satoko Fujii: Muku

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Trumpeter Natsuki Tamura and pianist Satoko Fujii--partners in marriage and music--have an extensive discography together, spanning a broad array of ensemble configurations, from Fujii's calamitous big bands to Tamura's European folk song-flavored Gato Libre discs, and from Fujii's propulsive, window-rattling art rock quartets to Tamura's blistering electric quartet of Hada Hada (Libra Records, 2003). But it is in their simple duo of piano and trumpet, where they have recently created some of their most compelling music.Muko is the pair's fifth duo outing, following 2008's outstanding Chun (Libra Records). Listening to the two recordings back-to-back reveals very different approaches ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Satoko Fujii Min-Yoh Ensemble: Watershed

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Min-Yoh is the newest star in pianist Satoko Fujii's growing constellation of amazing improvising groups. While the presence of her partner in music and life, virtuoso trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, is a given, Fujii's musical interactions with a seemingly endless array of top-drawer improvisers from all over the world are almost as intimate. The pair gives the sense that there are never any sidemen in their groups, only equal partners. Watershed is dedicated to the exploration of Japanese folk music in a 21st century jazz context; three tracks are arrangements of traditional Japanese melodies, while Fujii considers the remaining five to ...



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