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Satoko Fujii & Jim Yanda: Not So Silent In Their Ways

Doug Collette BY

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If it's indeed true that free jazz is an acquired taste, the premise begs the question of whether it's an arbitrary choice or a preference that lies dormant in all musiclovers awaiting only that signal listening experience to pique the natural curiosity and, in turn, awaken an abiding interest to further pursue this arcane field of music. Guitarist Jim Yanda's esoteric collaboration with drummer Phil Haynes and trumpeter and multi-instrumentalist Herb Robertson is in stark contrast to more conventional efforts of his such as Regional Cooking (CornerStore Jazz, 2013) and the double-set Home Road (CornerStore Jazz, 2016), while Satoko Fujii's exotic solo creation is very much in line with the woman's eccentric grasp of her own creativity: in 2018 she released a diverse array of twelve recordings. Such artistic courage is a trait the pianist shares with her guitarist counterpart (and by extension his kindred souls), one that serves them both well on their respective expeditions into the abstract: as the air of tranquility arising from these interactions shifts into more invigorating modes, then back again, each in its own way illuminates the mechanics of improvisation at the heart of all jazz.

Piano Music
Libra Records
2021

Arresting to the eyes as are the cover graphics of Piano Music, the music is no less so (and in fact a brilliant visual corollary). Quite probably, the audio component is more engrossing because of the almost visceral conjuring of expectancy and suspense. It's difficult if not impossible to imagine such sounds as that of "Shiroku" coming from an acoustic piano: emission of such tones would seem to be the work of an electric instrument or an synthesizer. But as with the other cut of two here, "Fuwarito"—at twenty-seven plus minutes almost ten longer than its counterpart—the artist delves deep into the potential of the instrument in wholly unconventional way. As such, it will not suit tastes for the traditional, but it's oddly captivating array of textures may very well transcend such limitations: also projects an undercurrent of emotion, seemingly diametrically opposed to Fuji's essentially cerebral concept, but deceptively accessible in its own way.

Jim Yanda / Phil Haynes/Herb Robertson
A Silent Way
Corner Store Jazz
2021

Given the decidedly unorthodox approach in play on A Silent Way, it may not sound so odd to learn that from the mid- point on is the optimum route by which to explore this double-CD set (fully in keeping with its own fragmented cover images). At the outset of the album proper, on "Hero" and "Search," the dissonant crescendos simply continue too long when generated in such static fashion by Yanda (on an amplified acoustic instrument), Robertson and Haynes; the three musicians sound altogether trapped in a noisy dead-end from which they cannot escape. In contrast, commencing a hearing with "Jungle," then progressing through the title track, the aforementioned monotony of deconstruction crystallizes dramatically prior to the kinetic finish of close to two hours total playing time. It's a tribute to Jon Rosenberg that he so fully captured this subtle dynamic in his recordings of the trio, but his discerning technical skill further extends the album's homage to Miles Davis, by incorporating respect, albeit indirectly, for the jazz icon's long-time producer Teo Macero.

Tracks and Personnel

Piano Music

Tracks: Shiroku; Fuwarito.

Personnel: Satoko Fujii: piano

A Silent Way

Tracks: Voyager; Search; Spirits; Consciousness; Questions; Stream; Clues; Path; Odyssey; Jungle; Nocturnal; A Silent Way; Possession; Meta; Shaman

Personnel: Jim Yanda: amplified acoustic guitar; Herb Robertson: trumpet; Phil Haynes: drums

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