Fittingly for an artist as relentlessly exploratory as pianist Satoko Fujii
, on Mosaic
she pushes at the boundaries of recording technology, as well as the music, and comes up trumps. For the second release from the trio This Is It! lack of physical proximity proved no obstacle. Confined to base during the pandemic, Fujii and husband trumpeter Natsuki Tamura
coordinated their parts in her tiny practice room, while drummer Takashi Itani
collaborated from his apartment bedroom 264 miles away in Tokyo. The threesome's debut 1538
(Libra, 2018) was tremendous and, in spite of the circumstances surrounding its conception, the follow-up yields a similar mix of virtuosity, inspiration and brio.
Are the album's origins discernible? Certainly not in quality. Perhaps a few more unaccompanied breaks, and slightly fewer whipcrack unisons, but not enough to be noticed by any but the most assiduous listener. Even though Fujii has led or co-led some 100 dates, the level remains astonishingly consistent and high. There is nothing remotely formulaic in any of the five pieces on the program. Although Fujii hallmarks such as unexpected pauses, surging ostinatos and sudden about-turns are present in abundance, she continually unveils novel ways to organize her music.
Individual expression adds the icing to the cake. Having furnished the maps, Fujii once again demonstrates her chops as a fearless improviser who ventures deep into the brambles. While she can blow both stormy and sunny, either on the piano's keys or innards, at the same time she does much of the heavy lifting in terms of structural underpinning, whether from propulsive vamps or stabbing chordal frameworks. Tamura often carries the melody, cosseting it in folk- inflected lyricism. But that is more than offset by his love of unconventional soundsimpressionistic splutters, furtive susurrations, and catlike mewling, which banish any hint of sentiment.
However it is Itani's choices which give the session its distinctive character, as he foregrounds a specific range of textures on each cuthand drums on the opener, vibes, shakers, metal surfaces thereafter, only unleashing his full kit on the final "76 RH." He displays an astute awareness of tone and dynamics, mainly deployed in non-metric pulsation, embellishing as much as driving. The end result is a unit in total balance, delivering a stunning recital, which makes light of the intervening distance.
Habana's Dream; Dieser Zug; Kumazemi; Sleepless Night; 76 RH.