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Yuko Fujiyama: Quiet Passion


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Yuko Fujiyama: Quiet Passion
American-based Japanese pianist Yuko Fujiyama has recorded sparingly over a 40-year career, so the arrival of Quiet Passion, only the fourth date under her leadership, is an occasion to perk up the ears. Also noteworthy is the unusual instrumentation she has chosen, supplementing her piano with the cornet of Graham Haynes and electronics of Ikue Mori. The resultant 13 cuts constitute a deeply personal album, introspective but simmering with pent up emotion and steely determination.

Like many pianists, Fujiyama fell under the spell of Cecil Taylor, whose music ambushed her during a stay in New York City in 1980. Recordings and performances with the likes of reedmen Daniel Carter and Sabir Mateen, drummers Susie Ibarra and bassist William Parker followed. But over the years she has steadily shed the overt Taylor influence, until here she eschews the high energy approach and linear narrative, replacing it with something much more mysterious and enigmatic, pulses of abstract activity, often interspersed with pauses and silence.

Only three tracks break the six-minute barrier. Of those, two contribute yet further to the distinctive character of the session, as they feature Fujiyama's settings for works by Shuntaro Tanikawa, one of Japan's most highly regarded living poets. On "Kurikaesu," between short rippling passages which turn increasingly dramatic and urgent, Fujiyama recites initially in Japanese before a final English translation which reveals how acute longing underlies everyday routine. "Sadness Is," rendered entirely in English, begins with spare simple statements, echoing the text, which repeats with increasing emphasis, leading to an ensemble finale, somehow both inscrutable and melancholic.

Whether couched in downbeat lyricism or bright fanfares, Haynes proves an ideal fit for Fujiyama's pared back aesthetic, cosseting his phrases amid stillness. Mori too knows when to push forward and when to hold back, deploying her clangorous gurglings and glitchy accents to both create and complement the mood. Fujiyama carefully organizes all the elements at her disposal into a suite like amalgam of solo piano, duo and trio pieces. The concluding three part title track provides the perfect capstone to the set, the first part being a delicate, then ringing duet for Fujiyama and Haynes, the second, full of foreboding piano and menacingly hovering electronics, and the last a series of dark figures, suspended in space, until combined in a sudden confluence.

Although intriguing and unsettling, Fujiyama's tone poems are ultimately affecting.

Track Listing

Prologue; Leggiero; Kurikaesu; Whispering Universe; Agitato; Dialogue; Piano Solo 1; Improvisational Suite; Sadness Is; Piano Solo II; Quiet Passion I; Quiet Passion II; Quiet Passion III.


Yuko Fujiyama: piano; Graham Haynes: cornet; Ikue Mori: electronics.

Additional Instrumentation

Yuko Fujiyama: voice; Graham Haynes: electronics.

Album information

Title: Quiet Passion | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Intakt Records

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