The profusion of settings in which multi-instrumentalist/composer Satoko Fujii works is something of a phenomenon. The extent to which she brings something unique to each of those situations is even more astounding. In her husband Natsuki Tamura's Gato Libre quartet, Fujii typically plays the accordion to interpret the trumpeter's more lyrical and folkloric compositions. The pair has also recorded frequently as a piano/trumpet duo, often pushing the boundaries of modern improvisation. But it is in Fujii's orchestrasNew York, Berlin and, as here, Tokyowhere she links transcendent and diverse qualities.
Peace brings together Fujii's fifteen piece orchestra and guests, trumpeter Christian Pruvost and drummer Peter Orins, who along with Tamura and Fujii make up the quartet Kaze. Often a theoretical composer, Fujii marks the occasion of this recording as a tribute to guitarist Kelly Churko, a Fujii collaborator who passed away in 2014. In that vein, she has touched on the guitarist's affinity for industrial sounds and noise but not without a generous share of beauty.
The lynchpin of Peace is the thirty-two minute "2014." The composition is an exercise in diversity as it touches on dense obsidian group participation and moments of minimalism. More elegiac is "Jasper" which, like the closing number "Beguine Nummer Eins," represents some of the most lyrical compositions that Fujii has applied to any of her large-formation settings. Those two pieces bookend the title track, an enormous, hair-raising attack that serves as acknowledgmentof one kindof Churko's proclivity for rampant pyrotechnics.
Restraint is something that Fujii typically reserves for the more intimate setting in which she works. Forty minutes of Peace is indeed the kind of frenetic saber-rattling aggression and spontaneous shake-ups that one would expect from her various orchestras but tempered with more reflective pieces. Fujii has always been a firebrand in this big band space but on Peace she broadens the pallet, injecting some of the very effective emotional qualities found in her more lyrical work. It is her finest orchestral work to date.
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