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Satoko Fujii Ma-Do: Heat Wave

Dan McClenaghan By

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Ever prolific avant-garde jazz pianist Satoko Fujii has put together yet another band. She fronts numerous ensembles: a dynamic piano trio with bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Jim Black, the trio Junk Box, with drummer Jim Hollenbeck and trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, big bands in New York and Japan, a powerful rock steeped quartet and a bunch of one-off configurations, in addition to her collaborations with husband, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura—most notably as an accordionist on the three Gato Libre discs. Heat Wave, the debut release from Fujii's new quartet, Satoko Fujii Ma-Do, features an approach that focuses more on her written music and less on improvisation.

"Ma-Do" means window in Japanese, while "ma" refers to the silence between notes. Fujii says: "I wanted to name the band to show how the music opens to the outside (just like a window) and that silence has probably more meaning than notes."

Satoko Fujii Ma-Do's take on the Fujii sound is more spacious than that of her rock quartet, but is also unmistakably Fujii-esque. Unexpected twists and turns, in-your-face and pedal-to-the-metal wailing juxtapose with spare, mystical, pastoral beauty. Tamura mixes straight-ahead trumpet blowing with strange and unearthly horn sounds—sirens and frog croaks and flatulence, creaking hinges and the fluttering of wings.

Group interaction is often nuanced with the occasional old European tinge, perhaps a holdover from the Gato Libre sessions. It seems every cut features a passage of tumultuous intensity with the band breaking into semi-choreographed fist fights served up in idiosyncratic Satoko Fujii fashion.

Satoko Fujii says, "I would love to make music that no one has heard before." She's done that many times over and she does it again with Heat Wave.


Track Listing: Heat Wave; Beyond the Horizon; Mosaic; Ring a Bell; Tornado; The Squall in the Sahara; Ameoba; Spiral Staircase; To the Skies.

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

Title: Heat Wave | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: NotTwo Records

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