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Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York: Fukushima

Dan McClenaghan By

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In 2011 an earthquake set into motion the events that would create partial meltdown of fuel rods in the reactors in nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan. Radiation was released. The effects are still felt, and will be for decades (at least)—an especially troubling situation for the only country to have experienced the initially catastrophic and ultimately corrosive and malignant aftermath of a nuclear attack.

Satoko Fujii, the Japanese pianist/composer/conductor/band leader has something to say about this, with her CD release of Fukushima.

This five part,  hour long personal contemplation of the disaster—shaped by Fujii and her Orchestra New York—breathes into existence with "Part 1," via air blowing through instruments, a wafting of most essential and immediate necessity for the maintenance of life.

This sprawling symphony of sorts travels in a sometimes subdued manner over ominous terrain. The very electric guitar of Nels Cline—in his first recorded appearance in the Orchestra New York—creates searing but almost under-the-radar emissions of ionized radiation, knocking electrons off of the ambient atomic materials in its path. Horns enter. Sometimes they rage; sometimes they fall to their knees in anguish, or howl with pain, or ruminate in sorrow or in askance on the situation. The thirteen piece ensemble—three reeds and six brass, along with bass/guitar/drums rhythm team—breaks into smaller units, then swells into majestic plumes of virulent harmonies, or sharp spikes of tainted atomic material. In "Part 4," a stealthy subterranean moan lays a foundation for brash horn statements, labored breathing, and, ultimately, the chatter of distressed birds—canaries and sparrows engulfed in the invisible wash of deadly radiation. Then a powerful and relentless groove settles in.

The year 2017 has proven fruitful for Satoko Fujii, with five compelling CD releases, culminating with one of her career-finest: Fukushima.

Track Listing: Track 1; Track 2; Track 3; Track 4; Track 5.

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

Title: Fukushima | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Libra Records

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