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Alister Spence / Satoko Fujii Orchestra Kobe: Imagine Meeting You Here

Karl Ackermann By

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On the heels of a monthly release year, celebrating her sixtieth birthday, Satoko Fujii takes no break as she dives into a new year. Imagine Meeting You Here is a five-part suite for Fujii's improvising Orchestra Kobe. The compositions are by pianist Alister Spence, who acts as producer and conductor of the fifteen-member ensemble. The suite premiered with Fujii's orchestra in Kobe, Nagoya and Tokyo in 2016 and was performed by the Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra later that year. Orchestra Kobe only recorded the piece a year later.

Spence and Fujii do not have a long history, but it deepened quickly across three projects. The two met in Australia in 2007, later recording with the Raymond MacDonald International Big Band, then on Fujii's Bright Force (Libra, 2018) in the Kira Kira quartet, and finally, on Intelsat (Alister Spence Music, 2018). Outside of the MacDonald led recording, Spence typically works in smaller formats but his compositions for Imagine Meeting You Here are compatible with Fujii's eclectic big band style.

Fujii's Orchestra Kobe is dominated by horns; five saxophones, four trumpets (including Fujii's partner Natsuki Tamura) and two trombones lending the force and emotion Fujii excels at. Each of the first four improvisations is named for a word in the title such as the strangely beautiful opening track "Imagine Meeting You Here (Imagine)" and the finale subtitled "Postscript." In those bookends Spence creates drama with the slow build up to a powerful orchestral conclusion. The second movement, "Meeting," borrows an idea from Fujii's "Ah Dadada" from Kikoeru (Libra, 2018) where group chanting spills into an exuberant carnival of dissonant horns. Hiroshi Funato's extended bass solo opens "Here" and sets up a cerebral—and theatrical—mélange of free improvisation and melodic fragments.

Spence initially established this project while working on his PhD. It was his goal to create an extensive suite for ensemble that led him to seek Fujii. He is well versed in associations between genres, styles and regional influences, finding and exploiting similarities, and differences to create new music. His adventurous nature makes him a natural fit in working with the like-minded Fujii. Together, they have created an album that wraps the listener in varying moods of warmth, intensity and moments of otherworldliness.

Track Listing: 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).

Personnel: Ko Iwata, Yasuhisa Mizutani: alto saxophone; Eiichiro Arasaki: tenor saxophone, shakuhachi; Tsutomu Takei: tenor saxophone; Keizo Nobori: baritone saxophone; James Barrett, Shojiro Yokoo, Natsuki Tamura, Rabito Arimoto: trumpets; Yusuko Kaneko, Yusuke Imanishi: trombones; Takumi Seino: guitar; Satoko Fujii: piano; Hiroshi Funato: bass; Yoshikazu Isaki: drums; Alister Spence: conductor.

Title: Imagine Meeting You Here | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Alister Spence Music

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