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Satoko Fujii: Aural Abstracts

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Pianist/composer Satoko Fujii had already released one of the year's most notable albums Piano Music (Libra Records, 2021) by the time Underground and Mosaic came out. And yet these two titles, conceived and executed in markedly different ways, reaffirm the woman's ingenuity as much as her prolific nature (along with close to another handful of records out in this calendar year). As with the best jazz on record from the studio or onstage in performance, it is virtually impossible to discern where the arrangement(s) leave off and the improvisation begins. Likewise, there's a precarious balance of the traditional and unconventional at work throughout both albums and, in fact, neither would work so well without the internal creative friction whereby structure actually begets spontaneity.

Futari
Underground
Libra Records
2021

Underground is no modern-day counterpart to Chick Corea and Gary Burton's Crystal Silence (ECM, 1973). On the contrary, in keeping with Satoko Fujii's forward-thinking approach to composition, performance and recording, this collaboration with Taiko Saito on marimba and vibraphone is a futuristic soundscape of sorts. Hardly the work of those derisively referenced in the bonus track, "One Note Techno Punks," this LP is instead wholly of a piece with Fujii's previous solo album. Tracks like "Break In The Clouds" will no doubt elicit a similar first reaction as that which listeners to the earlier album experienced, that is, 'How's that being done?!?' Yet while that process may be less important than the fact these ten tracks evince a tangible logic (albeit a decidedly abstract sort), it's worth noting this pair of players created the album by exchanging files across the internet, then merged them in complementary a fashion.. Cuts such as "Meeresspeigel" suggest how deep is the connection between Fujii and Saito: as much as this is a most cerebral work, there's a tangible warmth to it that bespeaks their intrinsically human bond.

Mosaic
This Is It!
Libra Records
2021

At a glance, This Is It! looks to be a traditional trio outing, but that's where both conception and execution are as deceiving as the name of the group is fitting. In yet another gesture of humility containing an implicit, ongoing effort to bond, Fujii aligns herself with Tamura and Itani so that the distinction between the musicians is blurred for the sake of continuity, an achievement all the more stunning because the recording were done literally on-line. Yet there's no corresponding strain in evidence during instrumental conversations, but rather the same free-flow of ideas like "Dieser Zug" that are as illuminating as they are thought-provoking. Poise and patience abound throughout the fifty-plus minute duration of the album, with three of the five tracks in double figure playing time: Fujii, Tamura and Itani are all allowed the space to ponder their next moves without hurry or haste. The end result of this combined effort is a work of consummate complementary creativity, a statement of courage as much as a testament to shared trust in the spirit of the moment.

Tracks and Personnel

Underground

Tracks: Underground; Break in the Clouds; Meeresspiegel; Air; Frost Stirring; Memory Illusion; Finite or Infinite; Asayaka; Street Ramp; One Note Techno Punks.

Personnel: Satoko Fujii: piano, voice; Taiko Saito: marimba, vibraphone.

This Is It!

Tracks: Habana's Dream; Dieser Zug; Kumazemi; Sleepless; 76 RH.

Personnel: Satoko Fujii: piano; Natsuki Tamura: trumpet; Takashi Itani: drums.

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