All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Multiple Reviews

253

Satoko Fujii's Triple Whammy

Hrayr Attarian By

Sign in to view read count
The year 2011 is proving to be a fruitful one for Japanese composer and improviser Satoko Fujii. In addition to a world tour, she has released three albums (all on June 21) on her own Libra record label, each in a different setting and in the company of different musicians. Her only constant companion, through all three discs, is her husband and musical partner, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura.

Satoko Fujii Min-Yoh Ensemble

Watershed

Libra Records

2011

On Watershed, Fujii plays with her Min Yoh Quartet, and features Japanese folk melodies and originals in the spirit of these traditional songs. Most have water-related themes, such as the aptly titled "Cascade," where Fujii's strumming of the piano's innards mimicks the sound of a small waterfall. Although Fujii's thesis, that music is constantly around us in the sounds of everyday life, is apparent, the music is never cacophonous. On the contrary, it approaches the mellifluous. The growling trombone echoes Tamura's chanting on "Limestone Cave," under the rain drops of Fujii's plucked piano strings. The alternating improvised duets on "Whitewater," initially between Fujii's piano and Curtis Hasselbring trombone, and later the freer and more angular dialogue between Tamura and Andrea Perkins' accordion, are vaguely reminiscent of Igor Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring."

A Zen-like simplicity permeates these compositions and arrangements, that are fleshed out by complex improvisations such as the multifaceted and tightly woven group improv on the old sea shanty "Soranbushi." They are also often theatrical, such as the chiming of the piano in the wind section of the horns on the lullaby "Takeda No Komoriuta," which is followed by the trumpet's sweet song, as the piano gently rocks and the accordion softly breaths, before taking over the melody like one parent taking over from another while rocking a child to sleep.

Kaze

Rafale

Libra Records

2011

If simplicity, albeit deceptive simplicity, is the main characteristic of Watershed, then compositional intricacy and improvisational complexity is that of Rafale, recorded by Fujii with her Kaze quartet.

The lines between composition and improvisation are blurred, as on the ominous sounding "Anagramme." The piece exhibits Fujii's minimalistic piano enhanced by the dueling trumpets of Tamura and Christian Pruvost and the incessant, yet never boring, percussion by the composer of the piece, Peter Orins, before it climaxes with a cinematic and melodic conclusion.

Some of themes explored on Watershed are evident here, as well as, on "Noise Chopin," cross pollination with western classical music. The multilayered piece builds like a nocturne, but instead of the quiet melancholy of Chopin's nights, this is full of the beats of a modern city. In a nod to Chopin, Fujii quotes a few bars of his "Marche Funebre." The unfettered exploration of noise and its role in music is a case put forth on "Blaze," where the quartet goes back and forth between stream of consciousness, atonal and arrhythmic improvisations, and harmonious group play.

Lastly, one of Fujii's originals, "The Thaw," appears on both discs. On Watershed, it opens with Fujii plucking the strings of the piano by hand and then starting a hypnotic lullaby with Perkins' sparse accordion "squeaks" punctuatimg the melody. On Rafale, Orin's long polyphonic drum solo opens the piece with an earthier and more resonant sound.

Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York

Eto

Libra Records

2011

Fujii's Orchestra New York is a big band with an intimate, small ensemble sound. On Eto, the title piece is a fourteen-part composition, with each short movement named after one of the animals of the Chinese Zodiac. It features a soloist sketching a portrait of the animal in a few brief, colorful strokes of their instrument. Saxophonist Chris Speed's mouthpiece solo scurries fast up the scales in a seemingly chaotic fashion on "Rat," while Ellery Eskelin's tenor growls on "Tiger." Curtis Hasselbring roars and slithers through an imaginative trombone solo that evokes the only mythical animal in the suite.

This "visual" style is apparent on the other three tracks as well. The Middle Eastern "Stroll" is like a colorful musical illumination depicting a leisurely walk with a poet through one of Persia's fabled ancient gardens, with trumpeter Herb Robertson, Speed and Hasselbring mimicking the twittering of the birds. The hectic "Pressure Cooker" invokes the din of a modern metropolis, with occasional interludes by trombonist Joe Fiedler and trumpeter Frank London standing out, as the musical camera focuses on an individual before panning out again.

With this trio of recordings Satoko Fujii has yet again proven that she is one of the most versatile and imaginative composers and improvisers working today. Her music is destined to weather the test of time.

Tracks and Personnel

Watershed

Tracks: The Thaw; Whitewater; Takeda No Komoriuta; Soranbushi; Cascade; Limestone Cave; Hanagasa Ondo; Estuary.

Personnel: Satoko Fujii: piano; Andrea Perkins: accordion; Natsuki Tamura: trumpet; Curtis Hasselbring: trombone.

Rafale

Tracks: Noise Chopin; Anagramme; The Thaw; Marie-T; Polly; Blast.

Personnel: Satoko Fujii: piano; Natsuki Tamura: trumpet; Christian Pruvost: trumpet; Peter Orins: drums.

Eto

Tracks: The North Wind And The Sun; Eto Suite; Pressure Cooker; Stroll.

Personnel: Satoko Fujii: piano; Herb Robertson: trumpet; Dave Ballou: trumpet; Frank London: trumpet; Natsuki Tamura: trumpet; Joey Sellers: trombone; Curtis Hasselbring: trombone; Joe Fiedler: trombone; Oscar Noriega: alto saxophone; Briggan Krauss: alto saxophone; Ellery Eskelin: tenor saxophone; Chris Speed: tenor saxophone; Andy Laster: baritone saxophone; Stomu Takeishi: bass; Aaron Alexander: drums.

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Long Journey

Long Journey

Satoko Fujii
Mizu

Available Gravity

Available Gravity

Satoko Fujii
Triad

Hypnotique Sympathie

Hypnotique Sympathie

Satoko Fujii
Atody Man

Liberation

Liberation

Satoko Fujii
Aspiration

Kunpuu

Kunpuu

Satoko Fujii
Kisaragi

Thought

Thought

Satoko Fujii
Invisible Hand

Ichigo Ichie 2

Ichigo Ichie 2

Satoko Fujii
Ichigo Ichie

Potential Energy

Potential Energy

Satoko Fujii
Yamiyo Ni Karasu

Running Around

Running Around

Satoko Fujii
Uminari

Gen Himmel

Gen Himmel

Satoko Fujii
Shiki

CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Atody Man

Atody Man

Libra Records
2018

buy
Bright Force

Bright Force

Libra Records
2018

buy
Ninety-Nine Years

Ninety-Nine Years

Libra Records
2018

buy
Mizu

Mizu

Long Song Records
2018

buy
Solo

Solo

Libra Records
2018

buy

Related Articles

Read Lee Michaels: Dinosaurs Still Rule! Multiple Reviews
Lee Michaels: Dinosaurs Still Rule!
by Doug Collette
Published: November 17, 2018
Read Seth Yacovone Band and Radio Underground: Rockin' the Green Mountains Multiple Reviews
Seth Yacovone Band and Radio Underground: Rockin' the...
by Doug Collette
Published: November 17, 2018
Read Jazz is Mod: An Introduction to the Mod Jazz Series Multiple Reviews
Jazz is Mod: An Introduction to the Mod Jazz Series
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: November 16, 2018
Read Scott Sharrard & Jack Pearson: Brothers by Proxy Multiple Reviews
Scott Sharrard & Jack Pearson: Brothers by Proxy
by Doug Collette
Published: November 3, 2018
Read All Over the Map with Losen Records Multiple Reviews
All Over the Map with Losen Records
by Geno Thackara
Published: November 2, 2018
Read John Lennon's Imagine: The Ultimate Collection & Imagine/Gimme Some Truth Films Multiple Reviews
John Lennon's Imagine: The Ultimate Collection &...
by John Kelman
Published: October 28, 2018
Read "Scott Sharrard & Jack Pearson: Brothers by Proxy" Multiple Reviews Scott Sharrard & Jack Pearson: Brothers by Proxy
by Doug Collette
Published: November 3, 2018
Read "Two Contrasting Releases From Bertrand Denzler" Multiple Reviews Two Contrasting Releases From Bertrand Denzler
by John Eyles
Published: July 22, 2018
Read "Iain Matthews: Redefining Eclectic" Multiple Reviews Iain Matthews: Redefining Eclectic
by Doug Collette
Published: March 24, 2018
Read "Two on Umlaut Records with bassist Sébastien Beliah" Multiple Reviews Two on Umlaut Records with bassist Sébastien Beliah
by John Eyles
Published: August 28, 2018
Read "Another Timbre Celebrates Its First Decade" Multiple Reviews Another Timbre Celebrates Its First Decade
by John Eyles
Published: December 9, 2017
Read "The Song Poetry of William Parker" Multiple Reviews The Song Poetry of William Parker
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: June 19, 2018