In celebration of her sixtieth birthday, pianist/composer Satoko Fujii plans to release twelve albums in one year; one for each month of 2018. With many other artists it would be fair to question whether such output would compromise the integrity of the music but Fujii isand has beenone of the most inexhaustible artists of her kind. Foregoing excellence has never been an option for her, and on the first issue of the planned sequence, Solo she exceeds expectations.
Solo was recorded at Yumemikan Hall in Japan and contains seven pieces combining spontaneous improvisation, a standard and selections mostly from Fujii's own Libra label songbook. She opens with "Inori," first recorded by her Orchestra Tokyo on Zakopane (2010). The slowly building solo version is in stark contrast to the original. Fujii uses the entire pianoinside and outon the improvised "Geradeaus" then moves on to an extended version of "Ninepin" from Live In Japan (PolystarINatSat, 2004). "Spring Storm," from the album of the same name (2013) precedes Fujii personal favorite, "Gen Himmel." The peaceful composition is in memory of Fujii's late bassist Norikatsu Koreyasu and has appeared on two of her previous recordings. The album closes with the sole cover piece, Jimmy Giuffre's "Moonlight" where Fujii again plays inside and outside the piano.
"Gen Himmel" is an excellent example of how Fujii reworks her creations in ways that make them stand out as singular accomplishments. This particular piece has appeared as the title track of her 2013 solo release, on Shiki with the Orchestra New York (2014) and on the live solo, double-CD Invisible Hand (2017). In each case, there are discrepancies in pacing and accenting, none of which dispense with the original emotion of her composition. Solo is only the fourth such outing for this exceedingly prolific artist who should be more highly regarded by Western audiences. With this first release in a year's worth of events, Fujii sets the bar high. That's not unusual for an artist who seems to create new benchmarks with every release.
Inori; Getadeux; Ninepin; Spring Storm; Gen Himmel; Up Down Left Right; Moonlight.
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