This Is It!: 1538

Karl Ackermann By

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At the half-way point of Satoko Fujii's year-long celebration of her sixtieth birthday, she presents a new trio configuration—This is It!—with familiar figures. Her sixth of twelve releases for the year is titled 1538 and features her almost ubiquitous musical partner and spouse Natsuki Tamura and drummer Takashi Itani. The significance of the title lies in Fujii's wish to convey the imagery of intense heat and 1538 degrees Celsius is the temperature at which iron melts. It's safe to say that this recording hits that critical temperature before the first track is done.

Trumpeter Tamura and pianist Fujii play together in various settings from Fujii's several orchestras (New York, Berlin, Tokyo), the quartet Kaze, and Gato Libre. Each provides a unique setting for what seems like an endless stream of creativity. Their duo releases have typically been studies in idiosyncratic lyricism and improvised abstractions. They are joined here by drummer/percussionist Takashi Itani—a member of Fujii's New Trio, Satoko Fujii Quartet, and Tobira. He also plays in the Japanese trio Kawasemi House.

Opening with the title track, we are immediately exposed to the harrowing capability of this trio to jar several senses at once. Tamura's trademark screeching, and Fujii's discordant piano along with thunderous percussion take the music to a place near the breaking point; Fujii finally reins in the chaos but then quickly lets it go again. Now that This is It! has our attention, the din dies down on "Prime Number," the first half a mildly acrimonious duet between Tamura and Fujii. "Climb the Rapids" is disjointed lyricism though it eventually abandons moderation while "Swoop" emerges from a protracted silence, morphing into a lopsided and forceful swing piece. 1538 closes with the thirteen minute "Yozora," an abstract meditation that fuses Fujii's gentle playing with Tamura's muted duck calls.

1538 is—not surprisingly for Fujii—as challenging a listen as it surely must have been to perform, and record, in front of a live audience. Fujii's compositions continue to lean toward being omnidirectional while managing to hold on to unswerving methodological approaches. Those tactics may be far from obvious to the listener but they generate deeply interesting storylines. The music rattles the bones as often as it soothes the soul and no composer is more masterful at balancing and grounding those extremes.

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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