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MULTIPLE REVIEWS

Satoko Fujii's Orchestras

Read "Satoko Fujii's Orchestras" reviewed by Jerome Wilson

Among pianist and composer Satoko Fujii's many and varied ensembles are the orchestras she leads in various cities. These two releases contrast Fujii's approach to orchestral music with the results of another composer writing for one of her orchestras. Satoko Fujii Orchestra Tokyo Kikoeru Libra 2018 Kikoeru was the final release in Fujii's ambitious 60th birthday CD-a-month program last year. All the music on the disc was composed either by Fujii ...

INTERVIEWS

Satoko Fujii: The Kanreki Project

Read "Satoko Fujii: The Kanreki Project" reviewed by Franz A. Matzner

Over four decades of experimentation, Satoko Fujii has made a lasting mark on the contours of modern jazz. The wave after wave of expressive force she has unleashed emanate from the aesthetics of her home country, but are never bound exclusively to it. They form a distinctive sound belonging only to her, yet comprised of wide-ranging influences drawn from the furthest reaches of the global free jazz movement. In 2018, Fujii turned sixty years old. In Japanese tradition, ...

UNDER THE RADAR

Big in Japan, Part 3: Satoko Fujii’s Year of Living Dangerously

Read "Big in Japan, Part 3: Satoko Fujii’s Year of Living Dangerously" reviewed by Karl Ackermann

In the first two parts of this series we looked at the origins of jazz in Japan and its adherence to the American style of composing, arranging and playing. Though jazz has been popular in Japan from the earliest days, it was--as in the United States--hardly met with unanimous approval in a country that prized classical and indigenous folk music. Yamada Kôsaku, Japan's best-known composer and conductor of the '20s through the '40s, disparaged jazz as “noisy and obscene." The ...

YEAR IN REVIEW

John Sharpe's Best Releases Of 2018

Read "John Sharpe's Best Releases Of 2018" reviewed by John Sharpe

Here are 12 new releases which stood out among the 200 or so discs that I heard this year, in no particular order. It's worth noting that Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii set herself the challenge to release a CD every month during 2018, to mark the milestone of her 60th birthday. Her output has been so remarkably consistent that a whole Year End list could be given over to her alone. I've reluctantly restricted myself to just two.

ALBUM REVIEWS

Satoko Fujii Orchestra Tokyo: Kikoeru - Tribute to Masaya Kimura

Read "Kikoeru - Tribute to Masaya Kimura" reviewed by Karl Ackermann

Satoko Fujii closes out the celebration of her sixtieth birthday with her final monthly album of 2018, Kikoeru: Tribute to Masaya Kimura. This album is more than a celebration of one life; it's a cathartic, full-circle tribute to lives that have touched the composer and been integral to her music. This sixth recording from Fujii's Orchestra Tokyo is the most powerful and accessible entry from the collective. Except for two changes in the reed and brass sections, and the absence ...

ALBUM REVIEWS

Alister Spence / Satoko Fujii: Intelsat

Read "Intelsat" reviewed by Glenn Astarita

This is the ninth of twelve CDs celebrating leading-edge pianist, composer Satoko Fujii's 60th birthday. On this album Fujii and Australian keyboardist Alistir Spence (Barre Phillip, Myra Melford) perform a series of over-the-top duets in front of a live audience in 2017 at the Intelstat jazz venue in Kiracho, Nishio, Japan. The artists first met when Fuji and trumpeter Natsuki Tamura toured Australia in 2007, leading to subsequent collaborations. The duo's charismatic alliance is teeming with unbridled resourcefulness. ...

ALBUM REVIEWS

Satoko Fujii / Yuko Yamaoka: Diary 2005-2015: Yuko Yamaoka Plays the Music of Satoko Fujii

Read "Diary 2005-2015: Yuko Yamaoka Plays the Music of Satoko Fujii" reviewed by Karl Ackermann

Diary 2005-2015: Yuko Yamaoka Plays the Music of Satoko Fujii is the eleventh of twelve releases to be issued as part of Satoko Fujii's year-long, sixtieth birthday celebration. The previous ten releases this year have shown us an exceptional artist as she works in a variety of musical modes, and in formations from solo to orchestra, with some very unusual collaborations in-between. This double album offers further insight into Fujii's creative process and her mindset, in general. To that end ...

ALBUM REVIEWS

Amu: Weave

Read "Weave" reviewed by Karl Ackermann

The year-long Satoko Fujii sixtieth-birthday project enters its final quarter in autumn 2018 with the stellar Weave. In a year of surprising and unusual releases, her newly assembled quartet--Amu--represents Fujii at her most unconventional yet accessible. The group includes Fujii's husband and frequent partner Natsuki Tamura on trumpet and percussion, drummer and percussionist Takashi Itani and percussive dancer Mizuki Wildenhahn. The mixed-media release consists of an audio disc and a DVD that features six of the seven audio pieces; the ...

ALBUM REVIEWS

Alister Spence / Satoko Fujii: Intelsat

Read "Intelsat" reviewed by Karl Ackermann

Three quarters of the way through Satoko Fujii's year-long celebration of her sixtieth birthday, she once again moves in an unpredictable direction, this time in the company keyboardist Alister Spence. Having met in Australia in 2007, the two went on to record with the Raymond MacDonald International Big Band the following year. Intelsat marks the second meeting of Spence and Fujii in the year-long fête; their previous release Bright Force (Libra, 2018) was in Fujii's Kira Kira quartet. The Intelsat ...

ALBUM REVIEWS

Satoko Fujii: Live at Big Apple in Kobe

Read "Live at Big Apple in Kobe" reviewed by Karl Ackermann

Another new formation marks the eighth entry in the sixtieth-birthday series of monthly releases from Satoko Fujii. As part of the pianist's year long celebration, she has released albums as a solo performer, a duo (with Joe Fonda), a new trio configuration with Fonda and Italian saxophonist Gianni Mimmo and another with Tamura and drummer Takashi Itani. Add in her Kira Kira quartet and Orchestra Berlin and you get a sense of the multiplicity of creative avenues that Fujii explores. ...

ALBUM REVIEWS

This is It!: 1538

Read "1538" reviewed by Jerome Wilson

For 2018, the year of her 60th birthday, pianist and composer Satoko Fujii has set herself the task of releasing a CD every month in all sorts of configurations, from solo piano and duos to small groups and orchestras. Her trio, This is It!, is a new group derived from an earlier quartet that featured bassist Todd Nicholson. Nicholson left, leaving behind a trio of Fujii on piano, her husband Natsuki Tamura on trumpet and Takashi Itani on drums which ...

ALBUM REVIEWS

Satoko Fujii / Joe Fonda: Mizu

Read "Mizu" reviewed by Karl Ackermann

Listening to Mizu, it is hard to believe that, just two years ago, Joe Fonda and Satoko Fujii were not only unacquainted with each other, but also with one another's music portfolios. With their Libra label debut Duet (2016) and their recent Libra trio collaboration Triad (2018) with saxophonist Gianni Mimmo, it rapidly became apparent that these very different innovators shared a common bond resulting in some very remarkable music. Mizu--the Japanese word for “water"--is the seventh installment ...