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Satoko Fujii: Aspiration

Dan McClenaghan By

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The teaming of pianist Satoko Fujii with trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith, both artists possessed of unwavering and uncompromising artistic visions, comes to life with Aspiration. Trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, Fujii's husband and musical partner is here too, as is laptop/electronics wizardess, Ikue Mori, making it a quartet of iconoclasts.

Smith and Tamura, two of the most unconventional trumpeters on the scene, players who often explode into wildly "outside" territory, explore here—and this has always been a part of their individual forms of expression—a more subdued, subtle, even pastoral soundscaping, on a set that eschews individualism and embraces more the concept of the collective sound.

Fujii over her twenty-plus year career, boasts about eighty CD releases as a leader, and as per her stated goal, she once again has creates a music we have never heard before. Unlike the  incendiary, continuous combustion of Fujii's Kaze group—a quartet that also features two trumpets:Tamura and Christian Pruvost—the Tamura/Smith teaming is much more about rapport and understatement, deliberation, with pianist Fujii in an introspective serve-the-music mode.

Wadada Leo Smith released perhaps the best music of his career in 2016 with America's National Parks (Cuneiform Records). Tamura, who captains the Gato Libre group, offered up in 2017 his latest and most distinctive of the free cat's music with Neko. They prove themselves simpatico collaborators here, roaming through segments of spacious straight blowing—and it's difficult to tell the contributions apart—and the occasional "extended techniques" they are both known for: bird trill and flutters, squawks and sputters, as they and the quartet craft a serene if somewhat alien word of sound.

The kicker—the enhancer of the music—is Ikue Mori, with her electronic exclamations and interjections.  The laptopist began her career in the late 70s as a drummer in what is described as a No Wave band called DNA. The year 2017 is shaping up profile-enhancing success, including her collaboration with Craig Taborn on Highsmith (Tzadik Records), and Obelisk, her Tzadik offering as a leader.  Her contribution to the sound here mostly percussive: rattles,  squibs, boinking bleeps, vibraphone notes seemingly played and recorded underwater, along with her electro-drones, all pushing that "music you've never heard before" thing up to the next level.

Track Listing: Intent; Liberation; Floating; Aspiration; Evolution; Stillness.

Personnel: Wadada Leo Smith: trumpet; Natsuki Tamura: trumpet; Satoko Fujii: piano; Ikue Mori: electronics.

Title: Aspiration | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Libra Records

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