Satoko Fujii closes out the celebration of her sixtieth birthday with her final monthly album of 2018, Kikoeru: Tribute to Masaya Kimura. This album is more than a celebration of one life; it's a cathartic, full-circle tribute to lives that have touched the composer and been integral to her music. This sixth recording from Fujii's Orchestra Tokyo is the most powerful and accessible entry from the collective. Except for two changes in the reed and brass sections, and the absence of guests, trumpeter Christian Pruvost and drummer Peter Orins, the ensemble remains intact from their previous release, Peace (Libra, 2016).
Fujii wrote four of the six compositions, and two are from her trumpeter husband Natsuki Tamura. The album opens with "Amadare" and utilizes a favorite motif of the composer, incorporating the influences of nature with slowly-building explosive energy. Tamura supplies sharp accents to the repetitive pulsation of brass. "Farewell" is the seventeen-minute centerpiece of Kikoeru, dedicated to the late tenor saxophonist Masaya Kimura, a member of Orchestra Tokyo for more than a decade. Both mournful and liberating, saxophonist Kenichi Matsumoto gives an intense performance. The title track plays out in unnerving quiet for over seven minutes and then erupts with brass. "Neppa" and "Stop And Go" are more carefree and boisterous, and full of Fujii's characteristic peculiarities and experimentation.
Fujii could have wrapped up the yearand this tribute collectionwith a reflective piece. Instead "Ah Dadada" closes out the year with a piece that sounds like a cross between The Electric Mayhem and Van de Graaff Generator. Wordless vocals, shouts and gibberish run on until trumpeter Yusaku Shirotani and vocalist Kunihiro lzumi take over in the same vein; at moments, it is laugh-out-loud funny. It's a completely unexpected conclusion to the album, which is exactly what one should expect from Fujii. A banner year of twelve outstanding releases ends with this moving and visceral album.
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