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Satoko Fujii Orchestra: Double Take

Jim Santella By

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Improvised music. And if it swings, then it’s jazz. Satoko Fujii, one of the world’s most interesting big band leaders since Don Ellis, compares the East and the West on this 2-CD set. One disc features her Japanese ensemble, while the other features New York improvisers. Soulful baritone saxophone and electric bass, raging trumpets, wailing trombones, expressive piano and other big band stimulants portray her music with accessible charm. Trumpeters Yoshihito Fukumoto and Natsuki Tamura recall the magic of Lester Bowie, a late period Miles and an innovative Nat Adderley. Improvisers from her West orchestra evoke similar impressions, but with different techniques. The music itself recalls leaders such as Mingus and Ellington. "The Megalopolis," in particular, blends fierce urban scenes and lyrical tales into a package representing the world around us.

Ethnic sounds are included with the East performance to add a unique flavor. The artists work together and yet with independent voices. There are places where the music becomes far-out, going off the deep end. Toys are used in spots to make particular statements, and the band chants during "Okesa-Yansado" to lend an identifiably ethnic tinge.

Fujii’s four-part suite, "Ruin," takes on a different persona altogether with her West orchestra. The instrumentation replaces traditional Japanese instruments with electronic turntable sounds, applied as if these synthesizers were merely a routine part of the band. Since the composition’s outline is the same for both orchestras, the moods change accordingly, but with fresh results. The suite represents roughly half of each session. "Jog Wheel" features a clarinet trio that lopes casually through sonic landscapes. That is, these three improvisers make hard work sound easy on the ears. They swing too. EWE Jazz, is East Works Entertainment, Inc., a Japanese label. The best source of information for Satoko Fujii’s big bands is http://www2s.biglobe.ne.jp/~Libra . With over 70 minutes from each orchestra, the highly recommended Double Take provides the listener with a full menu of improvising soloists wrapped up in the leader’s enthusiastic avant-garde environment.

Track Listing (Orchestra East):South Wind; Ruin-1, The Desert; Ruin-2, The South Pole; Ruin-3, The Outer Space; Ruin-4, The Megalopolis; Okesa-Yansado; Sola-Sky.

Track Listing (Orchestra West):Ruin-1, The Desert; Ruin-2, The South Pole; Ruin-3, The Outer Space; Ruin-4, The Megalopolis; Jog Wheel; Tobifudo; Exile; And then-Sorekara.

Satoko Fujii Orchestra East:Sachi Hayasaka- soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, bamboo flute, percussion; Kunihiro Izumi- alto saxophone; Hiroaki Katayama- tenor saxophone; Kenichi Matsumoto- tenor saxophone, shakuhachi, hose; Ryuichi Yoshida- baritone saxophone, flute; Natsuki Tamura, Tsuneo Takeda- trumpet; Yoshihito Fukumoto- trumpet, electric trumpet; Takao Watanabe- trumpet, gong, wind chime; Haguregumo Nagamatsu, Tetsuya Higashi, Gakutaro Miyauchi- trombone; Satoko Fujii- piano; Toshiki Nagata- bass, electric bass; Yasuhiro Yoshigaki- drums, trumpet on "Ruin 2".

Satoko Fujii Orchestra West:Oscar Noriega- alto saxophone, bass clarinet; Briggan Krauss- alto saxophone, clarinet; Chris Speed- tenor saxophone, clarinet; Tony Malaby- tenor saxophone; Andy Laster- baritone saxophone; Natsuki Tamura, Dave Ballou, Steven Bernstein, Cuong Vu- trumpet; Curtis Hasselbring, Joey Sellers, Joe Fiedler- trombone; Satoko Fujii- piano; Stomu Takeishi- electric bass; Aaron Alexander- drums; DJ Firehorse- turntables.

| Record Label: Ewe Records | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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