Satoko Fujii Quartet: Minerva

Dan McClenaghan By

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Pianist/composer Satoko Fujii—who as much as anybody out there defies the category trap—has recorded in a variety of settings: solo, duo, trio, big band. On 2001's Vulcan, with a quartet, she created arguably her most entrancing sound to date as she teamed with trumpeter (and her husband) Natuki Tamura, bassist Takeharu Hayakawa and drummer Tatsuya Yoshida for one of the most innovative recording of that year.

The Japan/New York-based Fujii eploys the same quartet on her new Minerva in a musical milieu that has sharpened into a crystalline focus, a vision that includes moods from the maniacally probing to sensitively pensive: sounds of pounding hard rock one minute, and delicate classical the next, then switching into flamboyant near-frantic freedom. In your face, then tiptoeing around the shadows.

Assessable is a word that comes to mind with Fujii's Minerva, if only because most of her work might be—rightly or not—labeled "esoteric." But anything innovative, or anyone who is forging new ground, can be given that label. And innovation is the constant in Fujii's music.

Like Vulcan, Minerva is by turns brash and in-your-face, with Richter scale rhythms slashed by Fujii with cut glass stabs, or hovers over with helium splashes of notes interspersed with wall-shaking percussive keyboard forays that will give way to her eerie, inside-the-piano string pluckings or geometricaly framed silences, with Fujii plucking teardrop notes to surround Tamura's trumpet moans and groans and growls...

The disc opens with Tamura's "Tatsu Take," a driving stop/start, heavily rock- flavored, fairly straight ahead (for a Fujii outing) romp. The quartet should have made a video of this session; it sounds like it was a wild, flailing ride that had to have been a gas to see. Tony Bennett's been on MTV; why not the Satoko Fujii Quartet?

The twelve minute-plus "Warp" squeaks and squeals its way into surreal life with a short session of drummer Yoshida's electronically-processed vocals, before it moves into a stately trumpet solo with that resonant, notes-blown-in-the-cathedral sound, leading up to a burst back to the secular side with the propulsive bass and drums.

In one of the most exciting times in the history of jazz—when the field is bursting with high energy and innovative talent—Satoko Fujjii and Company are still pulling out ahead of the pack. Minerva is an essential CD for those who want to experience a major new direction in music.

Visit Satoko Fujii's web site at: www2s.biglobe.ne.jp/~Libra/

Track Listing: Tatsu Take, Warp, Selvedge, Weft, Caught in a Web

Personnel: Satoko Fujii, piano; Natsuki Tamura, trumpet; Takeharu Hayakawa, bass; Tatsuya Yoshida, drums

Year Released: 2003 | Style: Modern Jazz


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