Following up her aggressive big-band release, Jo pianist-composer-arranger Satoko Fujii reverts back to the piano trio format on Toward “To West” featuring drummer Jim Black and bassist Mark Dresser who also supported Ms. Fujii on her 1999 trio date titled, Kitsune-Bi. Here, the pianist once again garners the laudable talents of this mighty rhythm section as this effort in particular might indeed represent her most substantial and musically rewarding small group outing to date.
The proceedings evolve rather poignantly on the thirty-two minute opus and title track, “Toward, “To West” as the pianist craftily and enticingly propels matters into a climactic overture that boasts a hodgepodge of intertwining themes and shifting movements. Ms Fujii’s charismatic inventiveness as a pianist comes to the forefront here and throughout these 5 pieces as she brandishes a thoroughly percussive attack along with her keen and limber right hand lead soloing. Black and Dresser are near perfect foils for Ms. Fujii as they rework themes into beefy rhythmic abstractions and free-jazz escapades. Pieces such as “Oscillation”, and “The Way To Get There” illustrate Ms. Fujii’s strong arranging and compositional skills as she artfully conveys rich content and structured musical form amid these works that delineate free/modern-jazz style group dialogue and interaction. Besides all of the purposeful soloing, sinuous flow and hard-edged musings, Ms. Fujii injects a potpourri of underlying themes and fluctuating cross-currents into her music .......and perhaps the best is yet to come, as we watch her star rapidly ascend above the horizon! Highly recommended.
* * * * ½ (out of * * * * *)
Satoko Fujii; Piano, Composer: Mark Dresser; Bass: Jim Black; Drums