The year 2018 saw two "sounds-you've-never-heard-before" collaborations between Australian composer/pianist/electronics master Alister Spence and Japanese pianist/bandleader Satoko Fujii, the duo recording Intelstat (Alister Spence Music), and Kira Kira (Libra Records) by the Fujii quartet Bright Force. These recordings were part of Fujii's "one CD release per month" celebration of her sixtieth birthday year.
The duo opened 2019 with the Spence-led Imagine Meeting You Here, featuring the Satoko Fujii Orchestra Kobe, one of many (it's hard to keep count) of Fujii's always adventurous big bands. Spence takes the leader's role, the conductor's baton and the compositional duties.
In discussing Spence and Fujii, the concept of restraint is relative. The five part Imagine Meeting You Here suite opens with "Imagine," awakening with an almost pastoral sound. It is, though, an "on alien planet" or "down Alice's rabbit hole" pastoral. The initially serene atmosphere is underlain by a tell-tale heartbeat that seems to reign in the ever-present Spence/Fujii potential for explosiveness and wild haymaker musical swings. Not that the intensity doesn't buildby the tune's end it sounds like a bull elephant trumpeting in the middle of a group of some seriously worked-up tribemen.
The five part suiteone part for each word of the title ("Imagine," "Meeting, " "You...") and ending with "Postscript"punches its way into wailing cacophonies beside delicate-but-eerie warblings, moments of odd introspection interspersed between cataclysmic extrovertions alongside unexpected moments of groove and sections of smaller ensemble breakaways thatoften abruptlygive way to blaring full-band unisons that crack up into full-band, bar-riot cacophonies.
The suite ends on a sort of off-kilter serenity with "Postscript." The tune opens with a sectionin a set laid out for a world class improvising orchestrathat is perhaps more composed than the rest of the music, with improvisational rumblings and stirrings and introspective reveries. It is, indeed, darkly beautiful, a perfect wrap-up to the hopefully ongoing collaborations between Satoko Fujii and Alister Spence.
Imagine Meeting You Here 1 (Imagine); Imagine Meeting You Here 2 (Meeting); Imagine Meeting You Here 3 (You); Imagine Meeting You Here 4 (Here); Imagine Meeting You Here 5 (Postscript).