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Satoko Fujii: the Gift of Music

Angelo Leonardi By

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AAJ: Can you remember the teachers and the musicians that influenced your compositional perspective?

SF: At the New England Conservatory I have studied with George Russell, Joe Maneri and Charlie Banacos and they all influenced me a lot. George's concept, in particular, helped me when I composed.

AAJ: Which musicians have you enjoyed working with most?

SF: I am the luckiest musician for having so many great collaborators. I enjoy working with all of them. I still remember with fondness playing with the great bassist Norikatsu Koreyasu, who passed away in 2011.

AAJ: Can you describe the influence of Japanese traditions on your musical conceptions?

SF: The biggest influence of Japanese music might be the concept of MA that is, a space between sound. Japanese culture puts great meaning in space. Sometimes "space" tells more.

AAJ: Among the albums you've recorded, which are the ones you prefer?

SF: My albums are like my children. I love all of them.

AAJ: Do you feel major differences between your New York Big Band and your Tokyo Big Band? Do you change your writing in any way depending on their different line-ups?

SF: I started playing with the Fujii Orchestra New York in 1996 and then moved back to Japan in 1997 and started playing with the Fujii Orchestra Tokyo. At first, I relied on the same repertoire for both, and I was so surprised by how the two groups played it so differently. It was neither better nor worse. It was just very different. I released a double album entitled Double Take, with the Fujii Orchestra New York on one CD and the Fujii Orchestra Tokyo on the other CD playing exactly the same songs. Now I try to compose different pieces for each Orchestra. I know the sound and the musicians of each Orchestra very well, and my writing gets influenced and inspired by their individualities.

AAJ: What inspired you to start your own label, Libra Records? Most of the covers have marvelous paintings of Ichiji Tamura. Can you introduce this painter?

SF: Natsuki and I decided to launch a label because that was the easiest way for us to release our music. We didn't want to spend too much time shopping our recordings to various labels. Ichiji Tamura is Natsuki's father. He passed away in 1995. He left some books. He also was a pioneer of people with disabilities in Japan.

AAJ: Do you believe in the healing power of music?

SF: I was in NYC on 9/11. After the attack, for more than twenty-four hours there was no music coming from radio, TV, cafés, restaurants... Natsuki and I had to travel to Boston the next day. We went to the station to find out if there were any trains running. They had music at the station and I could feel the music sink in my heart, and in other people's hearts. It was just "elevator music," nothing special. But I realized that music could heal us. From that moment on, I believe that music has an immense power to heal people.

Photo credit: Mau Zorzi.

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Long Journey

Long Journey

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Mizu

Available Gravity

Available Gravity

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Triad

Hypnotique Sympathie

Hypnotique Sympathie

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Atody Man

Liberation

Liberation

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Aspiration

Kunpuu

Kunpuu

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Thought

Thought

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Invisible Hand

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Ichigo Ichie 2

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Ichigo Ichie

Potential Energy

Potential Energy

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