292

Satoko Fujii Trio: Trace a River

Troy Collins By

Sign in to view read count
Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii celebrates her fiftieth birthday this year. A prolific and diverse artist, Fujii has one of the most impressive discographies in contemporary jazz. In honor of this milestone event she has concurrently released two very different trio albums on her label, the other being Cloudy Then Sunny, an experimental project from the collaborative trio Junk Box.

Fujii's trio features longstanding members Mark Dresser on bass and Jim Black on drums. Trace a River is her seventh recording with this line-up; their deep discography reaches back a decade, starting with Looking Out of the Window (Crown, 1998) on up to their previous session, Illusion Suite (Libra, 2004).

A conventional trio in instrumentation, but not approach, these three challenge preconceived notions of soloist and accompanist as they upend stereotypical roles in regards to melody, rhythm and harmony, each member an equal voice. Conversing on a virtually telepathic level, they expound on these sophisticated pieces with episodic drama and fitful invention.

A tuneful amalgamation of the lyrical/introspective bent of post-war pianists like Paul Bley and Keith Jarrett, Fujii's writing for this line-up is among her most compelling. Her compositions resonate with rich harmonic depth and spacious dynamics that provide contrast to dense thickets of activity. Neo-classical themes that resound with romantic impressionism and angular cadences are augmented by dissonant clusters and prismatic chord voicings.

Dresser and Black have been rhythm section partners in countless ensembles; their deep-seated rapport spans a decade. Dresser's strident arco work and Black's effervescent percussive accents offer a range of expression rarely found in most rhythm sections.

Fujii threads myriad styles into her elaborate, multifaceted compositions with an approach that is seamlessly organic. The cinematic "Manta" simmers with pointillist ambience while "A Maze of Alleys" regales with a circuitous fervor that fuses the ebullient lilt of Mozart with the crashing, angular dissonances of Cecil Taylor. "Take Right" transforms from pensive lyricism into riotous abstracted Eastern European dance rhythms while "Kawasemi" modulates from shadowy turmoil into sanguine pop tunefulness reminiscent of the Bad Plus.

The trio often embraces contrasting moods within the space of a song. The title track opens with plangent, harmonic arco bowing from Dresser, accompanied by Fujii's spare chords and Black's scintillating accents. Suddenly, they launch into a coiled unison theme fueled by Fujii's thorny arpeggios, Dresser's thrumming pizzicato and Black's cascading polyrhythms. From this spiraling vortex they open a vista of sonic possibilities to explore before gradually returning to austere beginnings.

"Day After Tomorrow" and "February" feature Fujii solo, plying melodious improvisations ripe with harmonic ingenuity. Alone or with her trio, Fujii reveals a singular voice that effortlessly bridges the accessible with the adventurous. Trace a River offers ample proof of the continued relevance of the venerable piano trio format in the hands a true artist.


Track Listing: Trace A River; Take Right; Manta; A Maze Of Alleys; Day After Tomorrow; Kawasemi; February.

Personnel: Satoko Fujii: piano; Mark Dresser: bass; Jim Black: drums.

Title: Trace A River | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Libra Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Déjà Vu CD/LP/Track Review Déjà Vu
by Troy Dostert
Published: September 20, 2017
Read Woody Guthrie - The Tribute Concerts CD/LP/Track Review Woody Guthrie - The Tribute Concerts
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: September 20, 2017
Read Two in a Box CD/LP/Track Review Two in a Box
by Jack Bowers
Published: September 20, 2017
Read Discussions CD/LP/Track Review Discussions
by Glenn Astarita
Published: September 20, 2017
Read Just Friends: Live at the Village Vanguard CD/LP/Track Review Just Friends: Live at the Village Vanguard
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: September 19, 2017
Read Introducing the Simon Eskildsen Trio CD/LP/Track Review Introducing the Simon Eskildsen Trio
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: September 19, 2017
Read "Rise Of Orion" CD/LP/Track Review Rise Of Orion
by Karl Ackermann
Published: December 15, 2016
Read "Wild Lines: Improvising Emily Dickinson" CD/LP/Track Review Wild Lines: Improvising Emily Dickinson
by Roger Farbey
Published: August 27, 2017
Read "3rio" CD/LP/Track Review 3rio
by Pascal-Denis Lussier
Published: May 1, 2017
Read "Directions" CD/LP/Track Review Directions
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: September 15, 2017
Read "Zea" CD/LP/Track Review Zea
by Glenn Astarita
Published: May 22, 2017
Read "A Cry For Peace" CD/LP/Track Review A Cry For Peace
by Geannine Reid
Published: October 24, 2016

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.