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Satoko Fujii with Natsuki Tamura: Chicago, Illinois, June 27, 2011

Hrayr Attarian By

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Satoko Fujii with Natsuki Tamura
Pianoforte
Chicago, Illinois
June 27, 2011

The intimate salon at Pianoforte, Chicago's premier piano shop and performance venue, was extremely well suited for Satoko Fujii's intensely personal, introspective music, especially in the solo and duet formats. This was Fujii's much anticipated Chicago debut and she did not disappoint.

Opening with a lullaby-like tune inspired by her noisy piano seat at home, she laid down a sparse and deceptively simple succession of notes with her left hand, and with her right simulated her old bench's groans and creaks with a crumbled plastic bag and an empty water bottle. The noise these objects made not only did not distract from the music, it enhanced the intimacy of the atmosphere. She then launched into two longer and more complex pieces replete with her trademark atonal rhythms and unusual time signatures. Her dynamic pianism blurred the lines between composition and improvisation—even though one of the tunes was written originally for a large ensemble while the other for a trio, they sounded superbly fitting for a solo pianist.

After the first 45 minutes Fujii asked her husband, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, to join her on the sparsely decorated stage dominated by the Fazioli piano. Tamura's clean, angular and laconic horn lines underscored Fujii's own musical vision and pushed her flights of improvisational fancy further out into freer realms. Her playing in return reflected and enhanced his solo forays. The extreme compatibility of the two musicians resembled a 21st century version of the historic cornet/piano duet of King Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton. In both cases a pair of forward looking improvisers with a common musical vision enriched each other's creativity.

A blues-tinged duet of alternating crisp, short piano and trumpet lines ended the sublime recital after exactly 90 intellectually-stimulating and satisfying minutes, leaving behind a disappointing silence and the frustration of inability to capture and preserve this stirring hour and a half, except in memory.

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