Satoko Fujii & Tatsuya Yoshida: Baikamo

Dan McClenaghan By

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Some of pianist Satoko Fujii's most explosive music comes with her work with drummer Tatsuya Yoshida. Their duo outings under the name Toh-Kichi, including Erans (Tzadik, 2005) and Toh-Kichi (Victo, 2002) are raucous affairs that veer in an out of mayhem, as are their recordings with the Satoko Fujii Quartet, including Vulcan, (2001), Zephyros (2003), and Bacchus (2007), all on the Libra Records label. Yoshida is a stomp the floors, slam the doors percussionist—you won't hear much in the way of subtle colorations or delicate texturalizations from him. For her part, Fujii—who is more than capable of nuanced beauty (prime examples: 2018's Solo and 2019's Confluence, both on Libra Records) more than matches Yoshida in muscularity, implacable energy and eruptive blasts on Baikamo, under their old duo moniker, Toh-Kichi.

The album opens with an outburst, a one minute piano/drums fracas, "Gidvbadhophen," that segues into the Fujii-penned "Rolling Down," bringing the sound into a more structured—but still free swinging—atmosphere. Things slow down initially with "Hvwebsjhoill," before they roil up into a rumble-in-the-alley sound.

A word about the titles. Beginning with the opener, "Gidvbadhophen," every other tune—the odd numbers in the line-up—is a free improvisation, each given a title by Yoshida. Each of these titles look like a word from the Icelandic language gone wild. Go figure. Most are brief. The wild freedom of these odd-numbered tunes contrasts and accentuates the somewhat tighter structures of the Fujii and Yoshida-penned offerings—the even numbered tunes. This proves an astute sequencing move.

For all the muscularity and energy—and the occasional segments of pure noise—Fujii and Yoshida do not turn their backs on beauty. The title tune, written by Fujii, begins with an off-kilter military march section from Yoshida, who is soon joined by Fujii playing a pensive, shimmering, modern classical-like piano, while Yoshida's "Aspherical Dance" is a crisp fibrillation with a jittery rhythm that could have appeared on a Horace Silver album, filtered through the Twilight Zone; while his "Laughing Birds" swings back and forth between tight and concise piano interludes and foreboding percussive bombast.

For all the varied sounds the duo creates—the sometimes prepared piano, the dense drums attacks, the shattering glass explosions, the skewed grooves—this is, stylistically, a remarkably cohesive set in terms of the co-mingling of the musical vision, until the disc spins to the closer, the Fujii-penned "Ice Age," that sounds like a Gregorian Chant conceived in the twenty-first century, on a spaceship to another galaxy. Fujii, as always, offers up sounds you've never heard before.

Track Listing: Gidvbadhophen; Rolling Down; Hvwebsjhoill; No Reflection; Zpajigemfluxss; Baikamo; Ajhisakdafitch; Aspherical Dance; Djofaksobhisc; Laughing Birds; Ovwebkwum; Front Line; Ruvwsevjieck; Climber’s High; Walsjhechrifo; Ice Age.

Personnel: Satoko Fujii: piano; Tatsuya Yoshida: drums.

Title: Baikamo | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Libra Records


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