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Satoko Fujii: One Hundred And Counting!

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Satoko Fujii is that rare artist whose technical and intuitive talents are as readily apparent in collaboration with others as when she is working on her own. To that end, she seems bent on exploring as deeply as possible the innumerable combinations of musicians and instruments available to her. And that's not to mention the variety of settings on stage and in the studio where she can conduct those inspired blends of talent and skill. One of, if not the most, prolific jazz artist on the planet, the pianist/composer's projects circa her one-hundredth recording illustrate the breadth of her ambition as much as her command of technique, those distinctions apart from her role as catalyst when she contributes with such inimitable flair to the projects of her peers.

Satoko Fujii
Hyaku: One Hundred Dreams
Libra Records
2022

Literally referencing the ever-so-versatile composer/keyboardist's prolific nature—"hyaku" is the Japanese word for "100"—One Hundred Dreams is a microcosm of her broadly eclectic grasp, its picturesque cover art just the most obvious link of continuity with the previous work. Fujii's humility does not preclude her role as a commanding bandleader for a five-part suite that is the title piece, so her assertive attitude leads to the assembly of, and assiduous composing for, what's rightly termed an all-star band. Featuring among many notable others, the iconoclastic trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith, the lineup finds itself suitably challenged to rise to the occasion, an elevation that begins, most appropriately, with the bell-like tones of the Fujii's piano at the very outset of almost 60 minutes of music: not surprisingly, the same clarity permeates the whole of this evocative work.

Satoko Fujii
Torrent
Libra Records
2023

As on Piano Music (Libra Records, 2021), in this solo context, Satoko Fujii sounds as abandoned as she does disciplined in her collaborative settings. There's a palpable sense of restraint at work, even in this wholly-improvised 52 or so minutes of music, no doubt because the rigor of her compositional skills, along with her works in ensembles large and small, imbues her playing with an innate sense of direction. In the end, that virtue only heightens the accessible nature of the work, so that Fujii's playing on "Wave Crest," for instance, runs the gamut of emotions—as cathartic as it is inspiring, the musical effect is as subtle in timbre as the cover art is in hue, while the liner notes in both Japanese and English mirror the staccato and fluid passages within "Light On The Sea Surface."

Satoko Fujii/Otomo Yoshihide
Perpetual Motion
Ayler Records
2023

Satoko Fujii is perpetually in search of new combinations to nurture her creativity and here she joins forces with guitarist and fellow visionary Otomo Yoshihide. In keeping with the duo's seemingly boundless imaginations, the very beginning of this four-track, 48 minute program unfolds with repeated crescendos, as if to invoke the muse, before some distinctly atonal tones begin darting back and forth. Alternately cacophonous and delicate to the point of near-silence, Fujii and Yoshohide explore the full range of the sonic spectrum, seemingly discovering new possibilities for their restive instrumental souls along the way. It's a tribute to their courage their willingness to experiment, not to mention their respective and combined ambitions. What they conjure up can conceivably both provoke and satiate, results that are, in their own way, as unusual as the creative musicians that proffer them.

Satoko Fujii
Crustal Movement Kaze & Ikue Mori
Libra Records
2023

Sublimating herself and her piano within a quintet both forward-thinking and stoutly traditional, Satoko Fujii helps ground the adventuresome ensemble on their forays into soundscapes both unknown and familiar. In keeping with the cryptic name of the album, the closer of its half-dozen tracks, the song titles mostly suggest actions ("Motion Dynamics" and "Shifting Blocks") of potentially seismic impact. As such, and on "Rolle Cake" in particular, that atmosphere is a microcosm of Fujii's multi-colored discography; with her as bellwether for the quintet, the pianist functions as an echo chamber of sorts for the collective (some of whom reappear from other works of hers), reflecting back to them what they've stated, as often as not having first embroidered upon those themes with her own idiosyncratic style.

Tracks and Personnel

Hyaku: One Hundred Dreams Tracks: Hyaku: One Hundred Dreams: Part One; Hyaku: One Hundred Dreams: Part Two; Hyaku: One Hundred Dreams: Part Three; Hyaku: One Hundred Dreams: Part Four; Hyaku: One Hundred Dreams: Part Five. Personnel: Satoko Fujii: piano; Ikue Mori: electronics; Ingrid Laubrock: tenor sax; Sara Schoenbeck: bassoon; Wadada Leo Smith; Natsuki Tamura: trumpet; Brandon Lopez: bass; Tom Rainey: drums; Chris Corsano: drums.

Torrent Tracks: Torrent; Voyage; Light on the Sea Surface; Cut the Painter; Horizon; Wave Crest. Personnel: Satoko Fujii: piano.

Perpetual Motion Tracks: Perpetual Motion I; Perpetual Motion II; Perpetual Motion III; Perpetual Motion IV. Personnel: Satoko Fujii: piano; Otomo Yoshihide: electric guitar

Crustal Movement Tracks: Maso andro Mitsoka; Motion Dynamics; Rolle Cake; Shifting Blocks; No Twist; Crustal Movement. Personnel: Satoko Fujii: piano; Ikue Mori: electronics; Christian Pruvost: trumpet, flugelhorn; Natsuki Tamura: trumpet; Peter Orins: drums.

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