Solo piano performances generally fall into one of two categoriesintroverted or extraverted affairs. Obvious examples of extraverts are Fats Waller
and Art Tatum
, while inward-looking pianists are Brad Mehldau
and Bill Evans
. Extraverts play music pointed at the audience, while introverts internalize the experience.
How then do we categorize the music of Satoko Fujii
? Her large ensemble creations, like Orchestra New York's Fukushima
(Libra, 2017), are bold outward-bound adventures. The same can be said of her Berlin, Nagoya, Kobe and Tokyo orchestra, her trios (both Japanese and American lineups), multiple quartets, and in duo. It is only when she performs solo, that we fully experience the introspective artist.
Fujii's performance at Yume Mikan Hall in Yawatahama, Japan in July of 2017 is not her first solo recording. Solo
follows Invisible Hand
(Cortez Sound, 2017) and a handful of others. This might be her finest solo outing, one equal to Keith Jarrett
's idolized Köln Concert
(ECM, 1975). The hall is perfect and the sound is pristine.
"Inori" opens the concert with one resonating note and is followed by several more, then melodies are revealed, all of which make you a voyeur of something very private. Once you have become her confidante, she opens her lens further. "Geradeaus" and "Ninepin" venture inside the piano, mining the metallic parts for ambient tones, then working with the percussive qualities of the piano. The beauty here is that it is all in service of the composition. She can trace solid lines with her left hand as with "Spring Storm," or signal radiance via plucked stings with a cover of Jimmy Giuffre
's "Moonlight." Much like her former mentor and teacher Paul Bley
Fujii's music is both introspective and ultimately extroverted.