This Is It!: 1538

Dan McClenaghan By

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Pianist/composer Satoko Fujii's June 2018 edition of her CD-release-a-month celebration of her sixtieth birthday introduces a new trio, called This Is It!. The group's debut recording takes its name from the Celsius melting point of iron. The group is a variation on the Satoko Fujii New Trio, a piano trio that released the excellent Spring Storm (Libra Records, 2014). The new configuration replaces bassist Todd Nicholson with trumpeter Natsuki Tamura. Fujii and drummer Takashi Itani remain.

The music remains typically Fujii-esque—a rambunctious stew of explosive group dynamics and interludes of gorgeous piano ruminations beside prickly percussive keyboard moments. There are also fleeting, bright splashes of notes, odd noises from extended techniques—from Fujii and Tamura—and driving rhythms in a wide array of time signatures. All this usually in the same song.

The title tune opens the disc with a scratchy whisper from Tamura's trumpet, drawing the sound in the direction of a post-cataclysm soundtrack, like the noise of the cosmos ten minutes after the Big Bang. It is chaos that coalesces into a dark, turbulent beauty in an extended piano solo. Itani enters with a "out-in-the-kitchen-makin'-noise-with-the-pots-and-pans" mode, while Tamura comes in hissing and sputtering. It is music that is idiosyncratically beautiful and calamitous at the same time.

"Prime Number," the second tune, is a jittery, mechanistic foray, like robotic assembly line mechanisms going off kilter with crossed signals from errant computer inputs, and "Climb the Rapids" has an odd, jumpy majesty, with Tamura playing his trumpet straight and clean and open.

Satoko Fujii is ridiculously prolific, almost Sun Ra prolific, even without a CD-per-month mandate. She has released somewhere in the neighborhood of eighty recordings since 1997. This project, beginning in January with Solo (Libra Records, 2018), has lifted her artistry to a new level—with six more CD releases to go. New bands pouring out new music in a torrent. Always fresh, always adventurous.

The closer—and the longest tune on the CD —"Yozora," opens with an extended drone (via Fujii's inside-the-piano string machinations is the guess) leading into spare and inward keyboard pianism. Then the switch gets flipped, and the ensemble blows into a hard-driving, near-mainstream sound. As it gains momentum, it becomes an exhilarating ride, one that tapers down to a slow glide, with Fujii and her piano creating the loveliest sounds.

Track Listing: 1538; Prime Number; Climb The Rapids; Riding On the Clouds; Swoops; Yazora.

Personnel: Satoko Fujii: piano; Natsuki Tamura: trumpet; Takashi Itani: drums.

Title: 1538 | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Libra Records

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