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Satoko Fujii Ma-Do: Desert Ship

Dan McClenaghan By

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Pianist/bandleader Satoko Fujii's Ma-Do Quartet is loud, with a dense volume that is often stately, often fractured. The same can be said of much of her recorded output.

Fujii is a stunningly prolific artist who records in a dizzying array of ensemble configurations. Of her two most notable quartets, the Ma-Do band is described as an explorer of the quieter, more subtle side of her acoustic music. It is, though, all relative. Her louder and less intimate electric Satoko Fujii Quartet shakes walls and windows, and sets chandeliers swaying. So does Ma-Do, but in a gentler, more acoustic fashion, down a point or two on the Richter scale.

The telepathic interplay between Fujii and her husband/musical soul mate, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura—showcased marvelously on their 2009 duo recording, Chun—blasts forward on this set's opener, "February-Locomotive-February." The tune charges ahead like a down-bound train, brakes failing, the drive train—Fuji, bassist Norikatsu Koreyasu and drummer Akira Horikoshi—flailing, with Tamura's trumpet screaming over the frantic machinations.

The title tune sputters to life on Tamura's fluttering, flatulent trumpet solo that settles into clean-toned majesty, albeit with some rough edges to it. Koreyasu's bass comes in, and then Fujii's crystalline keyboard enters with Horikoshi's rumbling drums, at a deliberate tempo that has the "Desert Ship" sounding as if it is on an unhurried journey.

"Nile River" opens with a deliberate march, relentless while threatening to lose control on Koreyasu's strident bowed bass lines. And, as in many—if not most—Fujii compositions, things seem to crumble in the direction of in-your-face chaos.

"Pluto" begins with the quartet members probing the silence before they jell into some neurotic interplay. Fujii takes a solo—delicate at first, pretty, as it cranks its way toward sonic entropy, with Tamura squealing into her maelstrom of notes.

Satoko Fujii is definitely of the avant-garde school of jazz, but her quartet recordings—and especially the Ma-Do Quartet—are some of her most approachable sounds. Desert Ship is a good introduction to her singular world, and another excellent set for her longtime fans.

Track Listing: February-Locomotive-February; Desert Ship; Nile River; Ripple Mark; Sunset In The Desert; Pluto; While You Were Sleeping; Capillaries; Vapour Trail.

Personnel: Satoko Fujii: piano; Natsuki Tamura: trumpet; Norikatsu Koreyasu: bass; Akira Horikoshi: drums.

Title: Desert Ship | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Not Two Records

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