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Satoko Fujii Quartet: Vulcan

Jim Santella By

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Satoko Fujii Quartet: Vulcan Four forward-looking artists combine their experience and creative passion for one smokin' session. Satoko Fujii has consistently maintained that dramatic tension be applied to jazz in moderate doses. Vulcan rises and falls with a natural feeling. Like the world around us, her compositions encounter changes in mood – from violent to gentle, bold and humble – dark and mysterious one moment and sunny the next. It's an album of contrasts.

Trumpeter Natsuki Tamura employs a full, round tone to interpret the various impressions. The program consists of originals that the pianist, trumpeter, and bassist have each contributed. While every piece allows sufficient space for individual expression, the quartet's woven ensemble message takes center stage. Fujii's majestic piano outpouring takes charge. Bombastic one moment and shyly pensive the next, her improvised themes move the ensemble. Drummer Tatsuya Yoshida, who comes from a progressive rock background, combines with bassist Takeharu Hayakawa to knit a forceful rhythmic curtain around the program. Much of the session recalls Ravel.

Bowed acoustic bass and a thundering electric bass facilitate changes in mood. When Fujii describes a scenic, pastoral "Footstep," Tamura contributes birdcalls through his horn. "LH Fast," on the other hand, finds pianist and drummer exhibiting similar, percussive displays of technique. And they're in sync. Step for step, Fujii and Yoshida explore the dynamics of unison force. When Tamura and Hayakawa pursue a ballad unaccompanied, it's with lyrical expression. Half-valve squeezes and open trumpet, minor mode melodies characterize the ballad appropriately. Fujii's "Untitled" moves out on a journey through distant lands. As if the quartet were marching with a conquering army, the piece changes mood from distantly royal to helter-skelter and then placid, before moving off with another marching theme. "Junction" describes Fujii's philosophy of jazz. It's a jam session with enough room for each artist to step outside the mainstream. Hayakawa's fuzzy electric bass and Yoshida's rock beat power the quartet beyond accepted jazz limits. Several times, Fujii stops the action with piano interludes that provide a quiet oasis. Then, the four-pronged high-energy action continues. By moving consistently in and out of the mainstream, Satoko Fujii continues to be one of the most creative voices in contemporary jazz.


Track Listing: The Sun in a Moonlight Night; Incident; Ninepin; Footstep; LH Fast; Neko no Yume; Explorer; Untitled; Junction.

Personnel: Satoko Fujii- piano; Natsuki Tamura- trumpet, toys; Takeharu Hayakawa- bass; Tatsuya Yoshida- CANOPUS drums, voice.

Title: Vulcan | Year Released: 2002


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