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Satoko Fujii Orchestra Nagoya: Maru

Jim Santella By

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Satoko Fujii Orchestra Nagoya: Maru Improvising ensembles come in all shapes and sizes. Here's one that begins with the standard big band instrumentation, adds a powerful rock-inspired twist to each selection, folds folkloric themes from around the world into its book, and then launches a hard-swinging free jazz journey.

While the band's fabric follows from what Buddy Rich and Woody Herman were doing with their organizations a generation ago, this one bears the imprint of Satoko Fujii's creativity. Under her leadership, the soloists get free with an expressive collection of adventures. They're all-stars, too: several of the group's members show a superb grasp of the deep feeling that's required to express the passion of her music. Unlike her other musical organizations, this one revels in its partnership with rock music and its impact on the senses.

Slip-on features powerful soloing from alto saxophonist Akihiko Yoshimaru and baritone saxophonist Daion Kobayashi. They blend with the orchestra to create a hot mountain of excitement. Kobayashi steps out again on "Pakonya to deliver another rock-inspired blow. The piece also features trumpeter Takahiro Tsujita in a fit of glory. While their animated soloing remains pure and natural, the band surrounds them with a barrage of fiery asides.

Guitarist Yasuhiro Usui steps forward on the title track, "Maru, to deliver a blow equivalent to those of Rocky Balboa in his glorious years on the big screen. It's a piece fit for celebration. Remember when organizations led by Maynard Ferguson and Don Ellis brought rock themes to the big band jazz arena? Fujii revives that concept here successfully with fireworks from an exceptional body of talented artists.


Track Listing: Slip-on; Pakonya; Maru; Yattoko Mittoko; Bennies Waltz; Sakuradori Sen.

Personnel: Satoko Fujii: conductor; Shingo Takeda, Akihiko Yoshimaru: alto saxophone; Yoshiyuki Hirao, Yoshihiro Hanawa: tenor saxophone; Daion Kobayashi: baritone saxophone; Natsuki Tamura, Tsutomu Watanabe, Takahiro Tsujita, Misaki Ishiwata: trumpet; Tomoyuki Mihara: trombone; Toshinori Terukina: trombone, euphonium; Tatsuki Yoshino: tuba; Yasuhiro Usui: electric guitar; Shigeru Suzuki: electric bass; Hisamine Kondo: drums.

Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Bakamo Records | Style: Modern Jazz


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