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Satoko Fujii/Ramon Lopez: Confluence

Dan McClenaghan By

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Pianist Satoko Fujii has collected a lot of musical soul mates over her twenty-plus year, eighty-plus album career: pianist Paul Bley, her early mentor; trumpeter (and husband) Natsuki Tamura; electronics wizard/keyboardfisit Alister Spence, to name a few notables. All three have teamed with Fujii for at least one extraordinary duo album apiece, showcasing deep connections and near supernatural simpaticos with Fujii's singular artistic vision.

Confluence introduces yet another of Fujii's kindred spirits to her duo recording ouvre: Spanish drummer Ramon Lopez.

Fujii and Lopez had never recorded together before their session for Confluence , and they'd only played together once, in a trio. But with no advance planning, the pair stepped into the studio, began playing, and things clicked. The result is one of Fujii's most peaceful and quiet—and most beautiful—recordings.

Unwrapping a Satoko Fujii CD and slipping it into the CD player is always an invitation to the unexpected. Her discography boasts big band outings can that knock the listening chair through the wall; quartet sets that can make the most combative and audacious of rock bands sound like a bunch of wimps; prickly, turn-the-mood-on-a-dime trio affairs that grab the ear and demand a second spin, for a chance to figure out what went down there; and solo outings of sublime beauty and peculiar solemnity.

Confluence contains the attributes of those relatively rare, more inward and restrained solo recordings, with the benefit of the enhancements of Lopez that seem as perfect as the sonics drummer Paul Motian wove for Bill Evans in the pianist's late 1950s/early 1960s trio—sounds so meshed with Fujii's vision, in a subtle and intricate and melodic way, that they seem inevitable.

Over the course of nine tunes—seven improvised, two from Fujii's pen—the pianist and drummer create mostly pensive and always poetic moods, gorgeous reveries, and off-center balladry, a sound as dreamlike, lovely and compelling as Fujii has ever put on record. Lopez, with a background in free jazz, tabla studies with Krishna Govinda K.C. , and the world of flamenco, creates understated yet lush orchestrations behind Fujii's piano.

Fujii may get more print for her big band and small ensemble recordings, but Confluence proves, once again, her unsurpassed acumen in the art of the duo.

Track Listing: Asatsuyu; Road Salt; Run!; Winter Sky; Three Days later; Tick Down; Quiet Shadow; Confluence.

Personnel: Satoko Fujii: piano; Ramon Lopez: drums.

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

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