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The opening cut on Zephyros, "The Future of the Past," rumbles in like a thunderstorm, full of bass/drum thunder and scattered piano precipitation, cold rain and spatterings of hail, sudden downpours and sharp cracklings of shattering icicles, a prelude to the eye of the storm'a ruminative bass solo full of dark omens, sporadic raindrops punctuating the warning.
Meet the Satoko Fujii Quartet.
Checking Fujii's biography on her web site, you'll read that her music combines elements of jazz and classical music mixed with traditional Japanese folk songs. They left out'especially when considering her Quartet recordings'progressive rock, with muscle.
Japanese-born Fujii, a graduate of Berklee College of Music and the New England Conservatory, records with a variety of ensemble sizes from duos to big bands, but her quartet work is where her vision seems most at home. Trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, bassist Takeharu Hayakawa and drummer Tatsuya Yoshida dive into the pianist's wildly creative sense of musical adventure without a glance back on Vulcan (Libra, 2002), Minerva (Libra, 2003), and now Zephyros.
An appreciation of Fujii's sound requires a suspension of expectations. Her compositions are true originals, beholden to no one individual style, yet influenced, I'd guess, by everything she's ever heard; while her playing ranges from delicate and subdued to supremely agitiated, from classically nuanced to belligerently percussive, often in the same song.
The reverb-heavy bass and drum add a modicum'just'of predictability here: "The First Tango" really does have that Argentinian tinge; and of special note is Natsuki Tamura's playing throughout. The trumpeter can blow as far "out there" as it gets; listening to the electronic hurricane of his Hada Hada (Libra, 2003) will make the fillings in your teeth glow in the dark. But here on Zephyros he at times sounds almost classical, as if he could fit into a brass quartet. He adds a touch of relative serenity to the set that fits in well.
There's no one out there to compare to Satoko Fujii. A true original, at her best on Zephyros.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.