Satoko Fujii begins her mornings at home with twenty minutes of piano improvisation. When I heard that, I wanted to find out where she lived, grab a good cup of coffee, find a seat on the sidwalk outside her window, and listen to her keyboard ruminations. The release of her Sketches gives us all the opportunitywithout risking a loitering chargeto listen in to Fujii's lyrical and introspective solo musings.
Satoko Fujii trained as a classical musician in her native Japan, switching to jazz and the world of improvisation at age twenty. She attended Boston's Berklee and the New England Conservatory, and has been a hugely creative, prolific and challenging artist ever since. Her most recent releases have featured her in a stimulating, high-energy, free jazz/avant rock quartet quartet on Zephyros, (NatSat, '04), Minerva, (NatSat, '03), and Vulcan, (NatSat, '02). As bracing as the quartet experience is, her big band work? Before the Dawn ?can shake up your musical preconceptions even more, with wild and careening rides into uncharted sonic lands.
Sketches catches Fujii in a more meditative setting, drawing as much on her classical roots as it does on her spirit of free improvisation. On her other projects, even in her most "out there" and chaotic forays, she finds ways to interject moments of pensive beauty and delicate lyricism. With this solo project, that side of her artistry is in the forefront. Though improvised, these songs have a feeling of structure within a free-flowing stream of thought.
More than any other unaccompanied instrument, the pianoan orchestra at her handsallows the musician's personality to surface. Satoko proves herself complex and sometimes unpredictable, an iconoclastic, adventurous, captivating artist.
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