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Satoko Fujii Quartet: Live At Jazz Room Cortez

Karl Ackermann By

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As prolific as Satoko Fujii is, she has never sacrificed quality for quantity. With a half-dozen leader/co-leader releases in just the past year, no two albums have conveyed redundancy, and none have fallen short of her serious artistic standards. Following the live sessions that led to Satoko Fujii's solo recording Invisible Hand (Cortez Sound, 2017), the pianist/composer was invited back to Jazz Room Cortez in Mito, Japan for a group performance. Two extended pieces from Fujii's repertoire were chosen for Satoko Fujii Quartet—Live At Jazz Room Cortez.

As she frequently is, Fujii is paired with her husband, the trumpeter Natsuki Tamura who collaborates with her in the New York, Berlin and Tokyo Orchestras, the quartet Kaze, Gato Libre and duo recordings. Violinist Keisuke Ohta has worked in pop and rock formations, soundtracks, and on one of the earliest jazz tributes to Louis Thomas Hardin—aka Moondog—Trees Against (Shi-Ra-Nui, 1998). The unusually staffed quartet is rounded out with percussionist Takashi Itani, part of the Fujii's New Trio and her Tobira quartet.

It is from Fujii's New Trio that "Convection" originates. The version on their sole release Spring Storm (Libra, 2013) is considerably shorter that the eighteen-plus minute rendition here. The episodic treatment is steeped in abstractions, the clattering, squeaking, and moaning effects branching out and somehow congealing into a fragmented melody that brings all the players together. "Looking Out the Window," from the 1997 album of the same name, opens with its share of unconventional sounds along with voices and regional influences. At more than one half-hour in length, it provides space for a full round of solos and the long closing sequence showcases Fujii's beautifully expressive piano.

There's a sense that freedom and lyricism are always elbowing for room on Fujii's page; how she controls those instincts is a large component in her ability to craft enormously thought-provoking music. Fujii's music is—by turns—primitive, exhilarating, and sensitive, but not in a quixotic manner. It is within her well-managed eccentricities that Fujii challenges the listener with inventiveness meant for open ears.

Track Listing: Convection; Looking Out the Window.

Personnel: Satoko Fujii: piano; Natsuki Tamura: trumpet, voice; Keisuke Ohta: violin, voice; Takashi Itani: drums, percussion.

Title: Live At Jazz Room Cortez | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Cortez Sound

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