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Satoko Fujii / Ramon Lopez: Confluence

Karl Ackermann By

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Satoko Fujii's duo recordings are among her most interesting projects. Those one-on-one situations bring out creative energy in the improviser that becomes perpetual movement between musicians. The shape-shifting artist has worked this magic with Australian pianist Alister Spence, bassist Joe Fonda, violinists Mark Feldman and Carla Kihlstedt, and Fujii's husband, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura. Similarly, Fujii's work with artists with whom she is less familiar seems to spark the inventive challenge she thrives on. That is the case on Confluence with Spanish drummer Ramon Lopez.

Fujii, now well off her twelve-release, year-long birthday celebration, seems to be extending the party with her third album of this year. Lopez is a member of the National Orchestra du Jazz in France and is active as a free jazz player. His Eleven Drum Songs (Alissa Publishing, 1998) is an ambitious solo percussion collection demonstrating impressive insight and musicianship. Fujii and Lopez exercise notable constraint on many of these eight improvised pieces. "Asatsuyu," "Winter Sky" and the title track are expressive gems; Lopez utilizing a light, but involved, touch, complimenting Fujii's sensitive playing. "Road Salt," "Tick Down" and "Quiet Shadow" are less reticent, with more sharp-cornered improvisations and shared examination, but still exuding warmth.

Only "Run!" is a full-blown free-jazz excursion, which tells how different this album is compared to much of the Fujii catalog. She has tackled the piano/drum format before, on Erans (Tzadik Records, 2004), with percussionist Tatsuya Yoshida. That outing was marked by an abundance of volatile exchanges and ceaselessly forward momentum. Confluence, with that one noted exception, is a more meditative collection, but one that never loses its edge. It is one of the most melodic entries in the Fujii body of work, and it's highly recommended.

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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