Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York: Entity

Dan McClenaghan By

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Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York: Entity
Pianist / composer Satoko Fujii has staked out her ground as one of the most original voices in jazz—or in any artform, for that matter. She has released more than eighty albums, beginning with her 1995 debut, Something About Water (Libra Records), a piano duet set with Paul Bley. She tours relentlessly. She records in every ensemble format imaginable: solos, duos, trios, quartets and big bands. Lots of big bands, based in Berlin, Tokyo, Kobe, Nagoya, New York.

She reunites with her Orchestra New York for the eleventh time with Entity, perhaps the finest big band outing of her career.

Fujii's music, in every format, surges, blasts, stops on a dime, turns a ninety degree corner, then turns a one-eighty. Industrial noise growls into the mix, electrical sounds sizzle and beep—sometimes with electricity, sometimes without. Then she injects some gorgeous traditional harmony, followed by a freewheeling solo, bookended by cacophonous brass and reed brawls. Entity has all of these unpredictable features, but contains more reverie, more moments of spare peacefulness to counterpoint the segments of raucous fury.

The title tune opens the set with brief, blaring fanfare of that cuts off into a contemplation, featuring drummer Ches Smith's clunking percussion punctuated with gentle harmonic horn sighs. Guitarist Nels Cline enters, emitting sounds that conjure a soundtrack of the subtleties of plasma wave emissions—frequencies of emanations traveling through ionized gas. Stuff coming off the Sun. Later, a growling, wild man saxophone rant brings the (seemingly) capricious twelve minute sonic journey to a close.

Fujii doesn't lay claim to a deep knowledge of Buddhism, but her web-surfing discovery of Buddha's pre-physics idea of elementary particles inspired her. The band's execution of her composition "Elementary Particles" is one of the most focused pieces from any of her large ensemble recordings. Beginning with Stomu Takeishi's powerful bass fibrillations, the music moves forward in a stealth mode—a horn, bass and drums conversation—until a mass of stentorian horns blows in. And, as with most all of her tunes, the horns squabble in a majesty of chaotic dissonance before shifting back to a near mainstream mode.

This is music with a lot going on in it. There is no repetition. It is an inexplicable entity, constantly covering new ground, and it is different, by miles, from anything anybody else is creating. Bracing and edifying, with surprises lurking in every odd angle of sound.

Track Listing

Entity; Flashback; Gounkaiku; Elementary Particle; Everlasting.


Satoko Fujii: conductor; Oscar Noriega: alto sax; Briggan Krauss: alto sax; Ellery Eskelin: tenor sax; Tony Malaby: tenor sax; Andy Laster: baritone sax; Natsuki Tamura: trumpet; Herb Robertson: trumpet; Dave Ballou: trumpet; Curtis Hasselbring: trombone; Joe Fielder: trombone; Nels Cline: guitar; Stomu Takeishi: bass; Ches Smith: drums.

Album information

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

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