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Satoko Fujii Orchestra Kobe: Kobe Yee!!

Dan McClenaghan By

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"I just write some music and lead them," says Satoko Fujii, of her Satoko Fujii Orchestra Kobe. This statement by the Japanese-born pianist/composer of unrestricted imagination refers to the fact that rehersals, gigs and recordings for this particular band are handled by Tetsumasa Kono. The prolific Fujii obviously has a plate piled high with musical projects. Kobe Yee!! is one of four simultaneously released big band discs, hot on the heels of avant trio outings, power house quartet sets, and an excellent trio CD by her newest group, Junk Box.

In a big band setting, Fujii's sound can have the feeling of a back alley brawl: contentious reeds squabbling with brash brass sections in front of pugnatious rhythms, interspersed with her succinctly "out there" piano interludes. All of that rumbles out of the speakers on Kobe Yee!!. The opener, "Fire," is a soaring nine-minute conflagration, flames leaping over to the next cut, "Tobifudo," from the pen of trumpeter (and Fujii's husband and musical soul mate) Natsuki Tamura. This fire dies down for a pretty and brittle Fujii piano rumination that explodes into a horn heavy Batman theme blast, leading into a blaring and sassy trumpet solo.

The set's highlight/closer, the seventeen-minute "Solar," opens with a gutteral tenor saxophone solo that leads into some surpisingly delicate classical sounding harmony, with a haunted and melancholy mood injected with a pure-toned trumpet solo.

Fujii's work—especially with her big bands—always has an Alice in Wonderland feeling about them—so much that happens seems so surreal, with so many unexpected twists and turns. Kobe Yee!! has more of a through-composed feeling than previous Fujii big band efforts, with relatively mainstream (stress the adjective) background underpinning some very energetic and unrestrained soloing all around.

Fujii is a consumate artist; she's never careful in her offerings; the musicians she chooses aren't careful; they—and she—lay it all out there, no holds barred.

She just writes some music and leads them, indeed!

Track Listing: Fire; Tobifudo; The Future of the Past; Kobe Yee !!; Shaikakui; Solar.

Personnel: Satoko Fujii: piano; Natsuki Tamura: trumpet; Jo Funato: trumpet; Tadahiro Fusihara: trumpet; Arata Hiraoka: trumpet; Tomomi Taniguchi (Tomy): Trombone; Kou Iwata: alto saxophonoe; Yashuhisi Mizutani: alto saxophone; Eiichiro Arasaki: tenor saxophone; Tsutomu Takei: tenor saxophone; Keizo Nobori: bass; Tatsuki Yoshino: tuba; Hiroshi Funato: bass; Yoshikasu Isaki: drums.

Title: Kobe Yee!! | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Crab Apple Records

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