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Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York: Entity

Karl Ackermann By

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As she did in 2019, pianist/composer Satoko Fujii—an artist at home in many formations—opens the new decade with an orchestra recording. Entity, from Fujii's Orchestra New York, is the eleventh release from the ensemble that has remained largely intact for almost twenty-three years. It is an all-star collective that includes saxophonists Oscar Noriega, Ellery Eskelin and Tony Malaby, trumpeters Natsuki Tamura and Herb Robertson, guitarist Nels Cline and drummer Ches Smith.

Entity has its moments of tranquility but it is—overall—a contentious collection. Tamura, Fujii's husband—often a primary source of alien trumpet noises—here shares that function with Cline and the reed section. Despite frequent brushes with anarchy, there is a buoyant and fervent feel to the music. Each of the five tracks run to double-digit lengths, time enough for innumerable plot twists. Consider the opening title track. It begins with a percussion solo, then a swell of horns. Cline seems to sneak his way in quietly but then unleashes full-blown pyrotechnics. Abruptly, the brass takes the piece back and restores calm before a slow build-up to another frenzied state. To suggest that the other pieces on Entity implement a similar approach implies there is a pattern to Fujii's work here. That's not the case. The composer/improviser simply works within an orderly/disordered world of her own making, maintaining just enough control to avoid excess.

Not all the compositions on Entity are as arduous as the opening or "Elementary Particle." "Gounkaiku" and "Everlasting" play out like a hybrid of Gil Evans, steampunk and noise. As a big band tactician, Fuji continues to composes like nobody else. It is impossible to turn away knowing that something extraordinary is coming. Often, many such things in a single extended orchestra work. The author Toni Morrison wrote, "chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge—even wisdom." We learn something meaningful with each new work from Fujii and Entity is no exception.

Track Listing

Entity; Flashback; Gounkaiku; Elementary Particle; Everlasting.

Personnel

Oscar Noriega: alto saxophone; Briggan Krauss: alto saxophone; Ellery Eskelin: tenor saxophone; Toby Malaby: tenor saxophone; Andy Laster: baritone saxophone; Natsuki Tamura: trumpet; Herb Robertson: trumpet; Dave Ballou: trumpet; Curtis Hasselbring: trombone; Joe Fiedler: trombone; Nels Cline: guitar; Stomu Takeishi: bass; Ches Smith: drums.

Additional information

Title: Entity | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Libra Records

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