Satoko Fujii's work has been well documented across her many musical outlets. A restless creative force, the pianistand occasional accordionistshe has plied her trade in the intimate duo settings with trumpeter-husband Natsuki Tamura and recently with bassist Joe Fonda on Duet (Long Song Records, 2016). But more often than not, Fujii's presence has been in the context of her numerous orchestras from New York, Berlin and Tokyo. Of her dozens of recordings, few have shown a spotlight on her solo piano work, the last of those recordings being Gen Himmel (Libra Records, 2013).
Invisible Hand is a live, two-CD set recorded at the Cortez Jazz Club in Mito, Japan. A mix of older Fujii compositions and new improvisations, the pieces are fleshed out mostly in long, extended treatments leaving room for the pianist's unique form of lyricism and edgy avant-garde inventions. The austere "Thought" opens the first disc with a predominantly delicate right-hand approach that runs counter to the busy and more erratic "Increase" that follows. The thirteen-plus minute title track has Fujii working both inside and outside the piano, the extended technique both lyrical and eerie. The long "Floating" is more straight-forward and incorporates classical influences. "Hayese" goes further into free and open territory as the improvisation displays layers of impulsive construction.
The second disc begins pensively with "I Know You Don't Know," an atmosphere that follows through the first half of "Spring Storm" which develops into just that, as it rumbles and explodes in a torrent of notes. Fujii again coaxes unnatural sounds from the piano on the otherwise gentle balladry of "Inori" and slides about the inner works again on "Green Cab," a boogie-heavy romp. "Gen Himmel" (from the afore mentioned solo album) is infused with a beautiful gospel flavor to close out the album.
Invisible Hand is a project that Fujii feels led her to a deeper personal space, buoyed by her audience and the sense of being in the right time and place for such an undertaking. The entire first disc is improvised though there are times that her sense of arrangement makes the music feel more constructed than it is. This album is, perhaps as packed with emotion as any of Fujii's works outside Gato Libre and combined with her technical skills, it is an extremely rewarding experience.
Disc 1: Thought; Increase; Invisible Hand; Floating; Hayase; Disc 2: I Know You Don't Know; Spring Storm; Inori; Green Cab; Gen Himmel.