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Satoko Fujii Quartet: Bacchus

Dan McClenaghan By

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You'll often hear jazz artists say that they don't like to call their music "jazz." The word, after all, is a label, and labels confine—if you take them seriously/and or let them. Pianist Satoko Fujii may or may not label her music (it's doubtful), but there are certainly no constraints on the sounds she makes.

Fujii records, prolifically, with any number of ensemble configurations: from her extremely freewheeling and often cacophonous big bands to duo projects, the European-flavored Gato Libre, and various trios and quartets. But one of her most enduring ensembles is The Satoko Fujii Quartet, with whom she has recorded four previous discs, beginning with Vulcan (Libra Records, 2001). The quartet is a powerhouse affair, with muscular, rock-informed drumming of Tatsuya Yoshida and the seismic electric bass of Takehuru Hayakawa laying down unpredictable grooves behind her piano, and the blowing of the always adventurous trumpeter Natsuki Tamura.

Bacchus may be the most sedate of the Quartet's sets—though the word "sedate" is used in a relative sense. The sound is loud, full of pulsing adrenaline and in your face brashness, but things seem a bit more measured than on previous efforts, resulting in their most approachable outing.

But don't let the words/labels "sedate" or "measured" fool you. The Quartet's sound has a beefy, vibrant energy; and Fujii's piano approach—whether she's flailing in a maelstrom or picking out brittle, pretty notes in moments of eye of the storm repose—is always surprising and engagingly outside any predictable norm.

Bacchus showcases Fujii at her best: focused, fearlessness, and not paying any attention at all to what might be expected from the confines of anybody's labels.

Track Listing: Sunset in Savannah; In the Town Called Empty; Matsu Mae; Flying Elephant; Bacchus; In the Town You Don't See on the Map; Waltz for Godzilla; Natsue Mae (with effect).

Personnel: Natsuki Tamura: trumpet; Satoko Fujii: piano; Takeharu Hayakawa: bass; Tatsuya Yoshida: drums.

Title: Bacchus | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Muzak

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