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Satoko Fujii: Solo

Dan McClenaghan By

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Any solo performance in any discipline—oration, gymnastics, stand-up comedy, music—walks a line between ho-hum and outstanding, between masterful and magnificent. For the pianist, the solo show offers a daunting challenge, and potentially the greatest reward.

Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii takes the alone-at-the-keyboard challenge with the first disc in a proposed "one CD release per month" celebration of her sixtieth birthday. The disc is entitled simply: Solo.

"Contemplative" is a word that comes to mind on the first spin of the disc. Considering Fujii's extensive discography, that's not always the case. Her orchestral outings (Nagoya, Tokyo, New York, Berlin) can ring cataclysmic and chaotic—though it's a chaos that often gels into serene beauty, spiced with lilting melodic interludes. Her group Kaze...get too close to the speakers and it can take the enamel off your teeth.

As the music plays out on Solo, the relatively straightforward beauty and allure intersects with the burstings of brittle, breaking glass splashes, the culminations of gathering momentums. An oddly flattened, percussive left hand bumps in with a beat that sounds like a like a resonant pulse.

Fujii's discography is too vast and varied for the tagging of it with a signature sound. Solo, more so than her other solo affairs—Sketches (Libra Records, 2004), Invisible Hand (Cortez Sound, 2016); or any of her numerous ensembles for that matter—deals in beauty, delicacy of touch, graceful melodicism.

Not that noise doesn't factor in. Fujii loves pure noise. This is, after all, someone who complimented a woman who dropped a cell phone on the floor during a musically spacious moment in a Satoko Fujii Ma-Do concert by saying, in all sincerity: "I liked that sound you made!"

Noise: she opens "Getadeus," the second track of Solo, with what could be mistaken for the addition of electronics, a short circuit, a sizzling hot wire humming behind the drywall. It's not; it's Fujii working her unique sorcery inside the piano, moving from electro-buzz to, on the next tune, "Ninepin," tolling tubular bells. And one slice of the genius of Fujii is that these brief sonic anomalies find fitting space inside the improvisational, neo-classical loveliness of her effort.

Is this Fujii's best? It's hard to say. Maybe. She makes a lot of music. It certainly competes with Chun (Libra Records, 2008) and Muku (Libra Records,2012) as her most beautiful.

Magnificent.

Track Listing: Inori; Getadeux; Ninepin; Spring Storm; Gen Himmel; Up Down Left Right; Moonlight.

Personnel: Satoko Fujii: piano.

Title: Solo | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Libra Records

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