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Satoko Fujii Orchestra Nagoya: Sanrei

Eyal Hareuveni By

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There is no doubt that out of the four big bands that Japanese composer and pianist Satoko Fujii leads, Orchestra Nagoya is the wildest one. It is also the fastest and the loudest one. It may feel like being hit by a huge adrenalin shot while listening to Sanrei, the orchestra's third release; but rest assured this powerful demonstration does not lack detailed and precise arrangements.

The orchestra was masterminded by Fujii, who opts only for the conductor role with this wild beast, and Nagoya-based guitarist Yshuhiro Usui. This 16-member big band, which also features Fujii partner and trumpeter Natsuki Tamura as well as tenor saxophonist Kenichi Matsumoto from Fujii's Tokyo Orchestra , was recorded live at the Tokuzo club in Nagoya in September 2007.

The orchestra blasts off with a tight and muscular rock beat on "Gokaku," penned by Tamura and led by Usui, electric bassist Atsutomo Ishigaki and drummer Hisamine Kondo. After setting the uncompromising and slamming beat, the brass section joins and expands the sonic possibilities of the infectious theme; but it still sticks to the beat, even through a wild vocal passage.

Usui's following "Eaves" sounds as if it is referencing seminal European big bands such as Alexander von Schlippenbach's Globe Unity or Barry Guy's orchestras, with its complex harmonic structures and brass section collective improvisation. But Orchestra Nagoya prefers a faster, rockier lane—as much as other great Japanese ensembles such as the Shibusa Shirazu Orchestra or Kazutoki Umezu KIKI bands do.

"Blueprint," which was debuted by the New York version of Fujii's orchestra on Blueprint (NatSat, 2004), highlights a comic vocal arrangement of all members, dadaist in its spirit, before returning to the athletic galloping mode.

"Kondo Star," named after the drummer, begins with spare ceremonial percussion by Kondo. With his added gibberish vocals, the tune slowly morphs into tour-de-force drumming, while the other members of the orchestra attempt to ornament and comment on his sudden turns and inventions.

Usui's "Shogetsu" features a distinctly funky bass module, which serves as a platform for improvisations by members of the brass section, with an impressive solo by tubaist Tatsuki Yoshino. Tamura's "Sankaku" features a clever and surrealistic arrangement that confronts members of the brass section with the rhythm section, and includes an outstanding solo from baritone saxophonist Yoshiyuki Hirao. "Sanrei," which is also featured on the New York Orchestra's Summer Suite (Libra, 2008), slowly revolves around Ishigaki's thumping bass of and Usui's bluesy guitar lines, before gaining volition and volume with a cathartic coda.

Sanrei is impressive in its power, intensity, inventiveness and overall fun-loving spirit.


Track Listing: Gokaku; Eaves; Blueprint; Kondo Star; Shogetu; Sankaku; Sanrei.

Personnel: Satoko Fujii: conductor; Shingo Takeda: alto sax; Akihiko Yoshimaru:alto sax; Kenichi Matsumoto: tenor sax; Yoshihiro Hanawa: tenor sax; Natsuki Tamura: trumpet; Tsutomo Watanabe: trumpet; Yoshiyuki Hirao: baritone sax; Takahiro Tsulita: trumpet; Misaki Ishiwata: trumpet; Tomoyuki Mihira: trombone; Toshinori Terukina; trombone, euphonium; Tatsuki Yoshino: tuba; Yosuhiro Usui: guitar; Atsutomo Ishigaki: bass; Hisamine Kondo: drums.

Title: Sanrei | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Bakamo Records


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