Satoko Fujii has the capability of making music in several different contexts and breathing life into each one of them. She is back with her quartet for a third album—and if hope springs eternal, that hope is fully realised. The elements of surprise and change are the constants which make listening to her and her band well worth anticipating.
Fujii likes to compose at a tangent. There are no straight-ahead manifestations in her writing. Whatever the approach, whether it is immersed in dark swirling mist or in the calm flow of a ballad, there is always a dramatic air that ignites the interaction between the players. Even the fractured rhythm pronounced by drummer Tatsuya Yoshida on “First Tango” sets up the blithe run of Natsuka Tamura on trumpet who essays the melody enhanced by the bass of Takeharu Hayakawa, giving the song its rhythmic due. Fujii is chock-full of harmonic runs that she strongly accents with chords from her left.
The opening to “Flying to the South” is deceptive; Fujii plays open ended notes before slowly upping the tempo with thunderous chords. She is soon on to a balmier landscape abetted by Tamura, before the rest gather and head off into a happy, sunny atmosphere getting a shot of roiling bass from Hayakawa along the way. The array of sound and hue that carries “15 Minutes to Get to the Station” is compelling. The atmosphere crackles first from the use of open, into which is immersed the vocal cries of Yoshida, and then the whirlwind that sweeps through on Tamura’s trumpet eddied by the bass and drums as the song rocks strongly onward before reining in and ending on a gentle plain.
Whatever form the music may take, whatever directions it may break into, at the end it all coalesces into a cogent whole. And that is something worth listening to.