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Friday, October 15, 2021

Satoko Fujii - 24 albums reviewed

 By Stef Gijssels

Last year we reviewed several duo albums by Satoko Fujii and Natsuki Tamura during lockdown, we reviewed "The Great Tone Has No Sound" by Polish bassist Rafal Mazur on which both Japanese artists perform, and this we year we shifted our attention to the trumpeter with several albums  for his 70th birthday and for his solo trumpet release

As a result, we are a little behind to review the pianist's work, that has been prolific as ever and surprising as ever (actually, while writing this overview, it was hard to keep up with all the new music that she released). The albums below cover a broad scope and breadth of approach and sound, demonstrating the artist's openness of mind, her versatility and her technical brilliance to create music in different sonic environments. 

(It is as if an athlete going for gold in the Tokyo Olympics in a variety of disciplines. Mastering one olympic sport is already a challenge, Fujii is doing the same with modern music, to excel in various disciplines.) 

We will start with some straight solo piano albums, then move to her solo work released this year, which is more avant-garde and minimalist, with her trio, a new duo ensemble called Futari, some quartet work, and then a few albums by larger bands. 

The tone and scope of the music is full of paradoxes and surprises, showing the many faces of the artist: playful, meditative, dramatic, introverted and extraverted, poetic and epic, restrained and exuberant, traditional and ground-breaking, leader and band member, composer and musician, but above all an artist with incredible energy and musical vision. Her music also combines the struggle between the rational and the emotional, the more Appolonian need for structure, form, arrangements and the Dyonisian desire for abandon, freedom, emotional drive and intuitive play. This inherent tension makes her music so often sound like a sonic chiaroscuo of contrasting and even opposing approaches, that still in her hands undergo conflict-resolution through a very coherent focus on the music itself.  The black and the white don't become grey, but they rather intensify their nature by being put next to each other in a way that makes sense. 

Satoko Fujii - Hazuki (Self, 2020)

"Hazuki" was composed and recorded during lockdown last year, at home in her 'piano room'. The overall setting is relatively calm and quiet, a moment of personal reflection, gentle and sensitive, and not gloomy or depressed as one might expect from the context. No, despite the enclosed room in the appartment, and the raging pandemic, the sound is still bright and shiny. One track, "Beginning", is even relatively upbeat, while "Ernesto" moves between calm and moments of dramatic effects. "Expanding" does what it says, playing around with a short phrase and moving it around in her musical universe and back. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Satoko Fujii - Solo Improv (Self, 2020) 

"Solo improv" offers us five relative short improvisations equally performed at home in June 2020. Fujii once told me that she followed her own music's inherent logic instead of having visual images or scenes that she creates (much in the same vein as how Steve Lacy describes his approach to music), but listening to these pieces, and with the titles accompanying them, I cannot help but see a kind of cinematic narrative or structure. Can it be that both composer and listener are right with opposing viewpoints? I guess it can.  

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Satoko Fujii - Solo Concert (Self, 2020)

There is little information about this album. "Moscow" is a thirty-minute improvisation that oscillates between muted and crystal-clear sounds, between dark rumbling of the left hand and the more frivolous right. The suite-like improv evolves full of variation and a natural sense of tension, including the long almost silent middle part, when prepared piano elements come into play, with fragile sustained tones and gamelan-like sounds, as an interlude to bring the piece to a strong and powerful finale. 

The second track, "Maka Fushigi" (profound mystery), is more subdued and quiet, almost meditative, until the very end, when the piece seems to get swept away by some unexpected power. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Satoko Fujii – Emaki (Self, 2020)

"Emaki" consists of two improvised pieces, equally performed in the artist's appartment during lockdown. The first track is thirty minutes, and builds the music up from silence and atmospheric rumblings directly on the strings. The subdued tone is maintained throughout, and its welcoming charm might give this even resonance to music lovers from outside jazz and improvised music. 

Being locked down results a lot in staring through the window, and like here "One Rainy Day" explains the inspiration for the short piece, in the same line as "Drizzle" on "Solo Improv". 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Satoko Fujii – Morning Dream (Self, 2021)

"Morning Dream" brings us eight longer improvised pieces, also created in the pianist's 'piano room' in Kobe. The atmosphere is bright and playful on "No Stopping No Standing", "Camilia In The North Wind",  "Path Ahead" and more subued on "Morning Dream" and "Sunrise". With the exception of a short passage on "Westward", the piano is played on the keyboard itself. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Satoko Fujii – Step On Thin Ice (Self, 2021)

The last album in the solo series so far is "Step On Thin Ice", a title that clearly refers to the winter months, still during Covid and still recorded in Satoko Fujii's piano room. The opening piece and title track reflect the cautious steps on thin ice, the cracking of the ice, and its fragile resonance, the joy of the walker. Playing inside the instrument and on the keyboard give a great nice contrast to make the piece come to life. "Winter Sunshine" is upbeat and "Chasing" is uptempo. "Arpchords" is more serious and dramatic, while "Walking Wagtail" is fun (how is it possible not to see the visuals accompanying this music?). The album ends with the hopeful "Spring Is Right There". 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Satoko Fujii  - Piano Music (Libra, 2021)

In a way, this is not "piano music" at all, considering that it's a collage of piano sounds connected via computer technology, and it is far remote from Fujii's analog approach. “I started recording in my small piano room during the pandemic and while I was editing the recordings, I got this idea,” Fujii explains. “I thought I could put together small parts to make a big work, fitting the pieces together the way I wanted to. I could make music like building with Legos. This may not be a new thing for many creators, but for me it was new because I am a very analog piano player.

Despite the quiet atmosphere of the music, it is full of tension and dramatic effects, soothing and ominous at the same time, meditative and menacing. It is by Fujii's standards, in any case minimalistic, built up with little sounds, and little pieces, to create a larger structure that is not always certain of its own solidity. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Satoko Fujii - Piano Music Vol 2 (Self, 2021)

"Piano Music Vol. 2" continues in the same vein as Volume 1. The digital album offers one long thirty-three minute track, called "Tomeru", which means as much as "to put something on hold for a while". Like the first volume, the music is a collage of recorded piano sounds, and it works beautifully. The multitude of different sounds create a totally new texture to Fujii's music, moving more to sound sculpture, leading the listener to a strange universe that is at once welcoming, familiar and eery, like a Murakami novel. The entire piece also has a strong resonance and reverberation, as if recorded in a cave. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Satoko Fujii & Alister Spence - Any News (Alister Spence Music, 2021)

Possibly closest in sound to Fujii's solo piano albums is this duo release with Australian pianist Alister Spence. The music is also the result of distant co-creation between Sidney and Kobe during lockdown. Spence and Fujii have a long-standing musical relationship, with albums such as Kira Kira's "Bright Force", a duo recording "Intelsat", and Spence's compositions for "Imagine Meeting You Here" by the Satoko Fujii Orchestra Kobe. He also performed as a pianist with Fujii's other Japanese orchestras (Nagoya, Tokyo, Kobe). 

The first track is a quiet and abstract piece, in which the pianos weave sounds together like chimes in the wind, naturally and organically. The second piece is happier and uptempo, with a great loose interaction between both musicians, in which ideas prevail over form. Throughout the album, the music remains relatively accessible, despite its abstract structures and themes. It is obvious that both musicians are focused on themselves, their ideas, their mutual challenges and interactions, more than on creating a collective sound for the benefit of the listener - I have the impression to be on the outside, somewhat excluded from what's happening - but that should not spoil the fun. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Futari ‎– Beyond (Libra, 2020)

But there is more than one innovation in Fujii's music this year. It also marks the birth of Futari, a duo ensemble with vibraphonist Taiko Saito. If I'm not mistaken, this is the first and only piano-vibraphone duo that we have reviewed over the years (but for the interested reader: piano-vibraphone albums have been released by Gary Burton and Paul Bley, Gary Burton and Makoto Ozone, Matthias Ståhl and Sten Sandell, Lewis Wright and Kit Downes). Interestingly, Taiko Saito already released a duet with German pianist Niko Meinhold on one of her earlier albums.

Like with the two "Piano Music" CDs, the approach is minimal, quiet, subtle and built around silence. "Futari" means 'pair' or 'two people' in Japanese. The co-creation of both musicians is quite astonishing. I do not know how much is prepared or agreed or written in advance, but the the effect of their single vision is uncanny, even if it sounds all natural and organic, and to make it even more special, both musicians rely on extended techniques to create strange effects. 

The press release mentions that the collaboration "has been 15 years in the making. Fujii and Saito first met when Fujii was performing in Berlin and Saito was still a student at the Universität der Künste Berlin. They stayed in touch and a friendship grew between them. While Fujii and her husband, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, moved to Berlin for a few years in 2011, Saito helped them adjust to their new home, but Fujii’s busy touring schedule meant they never got a chance to play. Finally, in 2017, they performed together in Puzzle, a quartet featuring percussive dancer Mizuki Wildenhahn. Saito suggested a duo tour of Japan in June 2019 while she was also home visiting family. Just after the fourth concert of the tour, they recorded Beyond". 

"On the Road", is the only somewhat surprising fully composed piece, rhythmic and with thematic patterns, it is the pivot around which the eight other tracks are organised, like a strong backbone in tradition that has more free improv wings going both ways. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Futari – Futari At Guggenheim House (Self, 2020) 

This album was recorded in June 2019 at the Guggenheim House in Kobe, Japan during the tour mentioned above. The music is understably of the same nature as "Beyond". They take the more European improvisation approach and integrate it in their own cultural legacy. The first track is like the album's cover and zen art: white space with sparse sonic calligraphy, precise and skilled. They give alternative renditions of "On The Road", "Mizube", "Todokani Tegami" and "Ame No Ato", which both also appear on "Beyond". We also get a version of "Aspiration", a Fujii composition that we got to know from her album with the same time title with Wadada Leo Smith, Tamura and Ikue Mori, and which also features on "Moon On The Lake", reviewed above. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Futari - Underground (Self, 2021)

The duo released three extra digital albums, all with the same name, and relatively short. The title of the series refers to the lockdown of last year, with both musicians performing from either Berlin, Germany and Kobe, Japan with the pieces being overdubbed afterwards. The music offers a combination of meditative subdued pieces while others are quite dynamic and I guess a more natural musical habitat for Fujii's energy levels. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Natsuki Tamura, Satoko Fujii & Ramon Lopez - Mantle (Not Two Records, 2020)

"Mantle" is a true collaborative effort between three like-minded musicians: Fujii on piano, Tamura on trumpet and Spanish percussionist Ramon Lopez. In 2019 they toured Japan for nine performances, and the band agreed that each member would write a new composition for each performance, resulting in 27 pieces of which 9 were kept for this album, with each musician contributing three. It was then recorded in the studio on September 22, 2019

The nature of the music is close to the duo albums of Fujii and Tamura, presenting music that ranges from the sensitive, solemn, romantic even at times to powerful and jubilant. The harmonies and themes keep a level of abstraction that allows for easy improvisation and development, allowing for the dynamics and the energy of the music to follow its own inherent logic. Interestingly enough, all compositions start with one instrument, in a rather quiet and slow form, with the two other instruments gradually joining, and once on board the pace and volume increase, as does the rawness of the sound. I tried to identify which musician had composed which piece but I failed miserably, which I hope is more due to the band's capacity to create a single and coherent sound, rather than to my lack of competence. 

Lopez is a drummer who mostly plays around the beat (think of Milford Graves, but often also Jon Christensen or Jack DeJohnette come to mind), and all three are in spectacular form on this album. 

Again, this is an easy to recommend album. 

Satoko Fujii - Moon On The Lake (Libra, 2021) 

I think this is the first trio album with piano, bass and drums that the pianist has released in almost a decade, At the beginning of the century she released several trio albums with Mark Dresser and Jim Black ("Kitsune-Bi" (1999) "Toward, 'To West'" (2000) "Junction" (2001), "Bell The Cat" (2002), "Illusion Suite" (2004), and "Trace A River" (2008)), and one with Tod Nicholson and Takashi Itani ("Spring Storm" (2013)).

After all these year's she's back with another trio, with Takashi Sugawa on bass and cello, and Ittetsu Takemura on drums. Fujii comments on the choice of her trio: "Most of my generation of Japanese jazz musicians are either very conservative or free, sometimes they were like enemies and only a few of them are open to what the others are doing. I like that Ittetsu and Takashi can combine the disciplines and can have fun playing both". And she is right. The music digs deep into jazz tradition, but I doubt mainstream jazz fans will appreciate the more adventurous moments in the trio's music, and there are many of those. 

The opening track is a typically Fujii composition, rhythmic, dynamic, exuberant with a little romantic counter element, with "stops and gos", opening in full force but very briefly, then leaving the space for a long bass solo, by way of introducing Sugawa, then the trio reconvenes for the theme, introducing a drum solo by Takemura, ending with a trio performance allowing Fujii to solo herself.

"Wait For The Moon To Rise" is of a completely different nature. It starts with an atmosphere of dread and tension, conjured by extended techniques on all three instruments, gradually picking up volume and shape, like scultping music out of fog, the theme remain a shimmering presence while the fog does not completely dissipate. 

Her composition "Aspiration", which we mentioned above, gets an 18 minute rendition, with ample space for Fujii to improvise and demonstrate her powerful sense of sensitivity and structural focus, but also with space for bowed bass and excellent percussion work. To the credit of the trio, this remains a very coherent piece with the development and individual excursions closely following the piece's destination. 

"Keep Running" showcases Takemura on drums for the intro, followed by the bass. As its title suggests, the music is uptempo and wild. 

The album ends with the title track, "Moon On The Lake", over which the fog and the darkness return, presented by the extened techniques, with the added vulnerability of quiet emotions. The day has come to a close, peace returns, together with calm and wonder. 

The trio's third date, on September 15, 2020, at the Pit Inn, was recorded for this album.

Like with her Orchestra pieces, Fujii lets the music have full priority, even if it means to take a step back and let the other musicians get center stage. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Satoko Fujii, Natsuki Tamura & Ikue Mori - Prickly Pear Cactus (Not Two Records, 2020)

From trio to trio, from traditional jazz forms to the age of electronics. I am not a fan of electronics normally, and I have often wondered at some of the music made by Ikue Mori. What she delivers is kind of an acquired taste, but you have to credit her for her relentless and often uncompromising approach to music and to sound creation, often disruptive and pushing collaborating musicians outside of their zone of comfort. 

From what I found, the first collaboration between Fujii and Ikue Mori dates from 1999, when the latter made the design of the "Kitsune-bi" album on Tzadik. The collaborated with Mahobin on "Live At Big Apple In Kobe" (2018). The two other musicial collaborations were more recent: "Aspiration" and with Kaze's "Sand Storm"

On this album, the music was generated across continents during lockdown in 2020, with Satoko Fujii sending sound files with piano music to Ikue Mori, who's based in New York and who processed the sounds and added to them, with Tamura on trumpet adding his electronically altered performances. The whole set was then reorganised and post-produced by Fujii in Kobe, Japan. 

It's hard to assess whether my impression of the music's sad and frustrated tone is the result of my knowledge of the lockdown situation, or whether it is deliberately infused in the music. We clearly do not get Fujii's usual bright, extraverted sound. The atmosphere is eery and often dark, with odd sounds, noise and creepy electronics contrasting with the occasional crystal-clear notes from the piano. Fujii's wide span from quiet and lyrical playing to power chords and dramatic runs provide the foundation for a lot of surprises and fascinating explorations. 

A lot can be said about the lockdown, but it definitely led to creative innovations. We're far removed from Fujii's solo albums on this one. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Kaze & Ikue Mori - Sand Storm (Circum Disc, 2020)

Kaze is the French-Japanese quartet with the double trumpet front of Christian Pruvost and Natsuki Tamura, with Fujii on piano and Peter Orins on drums, and with Ikue Mori as a guest musician on electronics. The five musicians had just toured in Europe (Austria, France, Russia) prior to the recording of this album in February 2020 in New York. 

This is the band's fifth album, and as usual the sounds of wind and sea are the inspiration to evoke and transform. That also means that the listener is in for a ride which requires solid footing and at times a tough stomach. 

Both trumpeters are experts at extended techniques on their instrument, including the voiceless breath of wind and air, here enhanced by Mori's electronics, Fujii's rumblings on the inside of her instrument, occasional and arhythmic percussive beats by Orins, and you get the larger part of the opening track. It's fascinating, with a kaleidoscopic change of colours to evokate the strong sound of a hurricane, until suddenly the core theme emerges in its full beauty, with the unison trumpets reinforced by the harmonic chords of the piano. 

The whole album offers brilliant contrasts between inside and outside playing, beautiful themes and the disruptive electronics of Ikue Mori. Some tracks are compact, intense and powerful ("Poco A Poco"), others long sound explorations ("Kappa"). Describing the music is impossible, but it surely figures among the most adventurous, skilled and challenging music today. 

The band's strength is their seamless interaction and vision on their music, however unfamiliar it may sound, but they have been performing together for ten years now. 

To conclude, here are some tips on how to survive a sand storm. It's best to be prepared. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Tobifudo - Tobifudo (Self, 2021) 

Tobifudo is a re-issue of the first album by Satoko Fujii and Natsuki Tamura from 1992, now released on Bandcamp. The quartet further consists of Keiichi Kanai on bass, and Hidemaro Mise on drums. It is a great archival piece, offering us a glimpse into the early past of Fujii and Tamura. Already then, their sense of insistence, instrumental proficiency and compositorial rebelliousness is present without straying too far from post bop as a genre, with integration of some other musical styles, not all necessary within the jazz genre. All compositions are built like narratives full of dramatic changes and stark contrasts in style and tone, all brought with the insistence of young artists who are confident their music should be heard. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Gato Libre - Koneko (Libra, 2020)

True, Gato Libre is more led by Natsuki Tamura than by Satoko Fujii, but for completeness' sake, we love to mention it here. Fujii plays accordion here like on all Gato Libre albums, and the third band member is Yasuko Kaneko on trombone. 

As with all Gato Libre albums, this is also one to savour. Tamura's folk-jazz style is unique and almost universal, in the sense that even if European popular village music of centuries ago shimmers through the surface, it still resonates with people everywhere. The agility of the arrangements and the subtlety of the performances, together with the precision of the musicians continue to make this exceptional and unique music. The music is unhurried, with nothing to prove, no position to claim, no audience to be surprised, just the pleasure of melodies and sound. It almost comes with a guarantee to make you smile. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Wandering The Sound Quintet - What Is (Not Two, 2021) 

Last year we reviewed Polish acoustic bass guitar wizard Rafal Mazur's "The Great Tone Has No Sound", on which one of the four CDs consisted of improvisations by the quintet of Satoko Fujii on piano, Natsuki Tamura on trumpet, Guillermo Gregorio on clarinet, and Ramon Lopez on drums. 

This album continues this very succesful collaboration. It is unclear from the information we received whether this was recorded during the same tour, but it is likely, considering that all musicians are from different parts of the world (Japan, Poland, Argentina). 

The first track is a 44-minute improvisation that meanders between silence, extended techniques on the various instruments, moments of brilliant co-creation when collective ideas arise out of the shimmering sounds that precede them. Fujii's piano is essential as the instrument that keeps it all together, and gives direction to the music. The length of the first piece is worth every minute, because it allows these natural story-tellers to move the music forward and make it evolve, to give it depth, variation, contrast, new avenues and ideas, with every ten minutes a moment of quiet or even absolute silence, making it sound more like a suite. 

The two following tracks are shorter (almost 12 and 9 minutes respectively). "...Wind" is introduced by piano and clarinet, starting gently but picking up force as it moves forward, with bass guitar, drums and eventually trumpet joining. Even if there is a lot of soloing, the collective sound is truly impressive, also in the transitions between solos, duets and full quintet interactions. "... Mind" starts with solo clarinet, free-spirited and joyful, but of course it doesn't stay like that, and the music picks up volume and even reaches moments of violent interaction, with Tamura shouting and using his suppressed trumpet sounds. 

The production of the album is excellent, and despite the different volume of instruments like trumpet and clarinet, their quality is extremely well balanced. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp. 

LEONE Surprise feat. Satoko Fujii, Syvain Kassap & Natsuki Tamura - Live in Paris (Self, 2021)

And now for something completely different (again). LEONE Sauvage is a French mini big band of young musicians who get together for concerts once a month ("Leone sauvage is a wild group of untamed young parisian musicians, dancers, artists, time a month, a cave of Paris is turned into an anarchique concert, making you dance, making you yell" I read on one of the musician's website), in an atmosphere of Art Ensemble attire, Escalator over the Hill musicianship, and Angles collective spirit. This album has Satoko Fujii and Natsuki Tamura as guest musicians, together with French saxophonist Sylvain Kassap. 

The band consists of Sylvain Kassap, Luise Volkmann, Gabriel Boyault, Pierre-Marie Lapprand, Rémi Fox on saxes, Clement Admirault on trombone, Natsuki Tamura, Jerome Fouqet and Timothée Quost on trumpet, Thibault Gomez on piano, Quentin Coppalle on flute and percussion, Paolo Gauthier on guitare-cithare, Victor Aubert on bass, and Baptiste Thiebault on drums. They all sing as well, sometimes solo, but mostly as a choir. Fujii's role is mostly conducting the band - although she does play some piano - and she composed the second set of the album, while the first set was composed by Volkmann and Coppalle. 

From the very beginning you sense that you are part of something unique, a little strange, a little mad, a little totally out of the box, with a first track that sounds like a hymn or a funeral march, constructed around a quiet vocal piece that is itself surrounded by unravelling horns. It is sad and exuberant, attractive and compelling like village music, something close to people to share their common sentiments of grief, but it is at the same time so over the top that it makes you laugh. With a little reference to "We Will Rock You" by Queen, the next substantive composition is called "Satoko Reborn As A Rock Star", and it is guaranteed to make you laugh even harder. It is fun, it is funny, it is excessive and wild. 

"Zwei Ansätze" (two approaches) starts with the big band in full force, blowing its solemn theme, before the whole thing collapses in itself with chaotic shouting, rhythmic madness, a howling trumpet and the total desintegration of the composition until almost complete silence, after which it puzzles itself back together. 

Fujii herself composed/conducted the next two pieces: "Fukushima Part A" and "Fukushima Part B", music we already know from her Orchestra New York album with the same title, although the delivery here is of a totally different nature. It starts with single instruments creating an eery atmosphere until the full band marches in after around five minutes with the core theme. Despite the difference in composer, the sound of the band remains intact: it is wild, with shouting and singing, consecutive soloing but all with a solid foundation. The finale mirrors the quiet and hesitant intro. The second part is equally strong, equally long, equally contrasting quiet moments of individual instruments exploring their way with high volume power, with collective rhythmic moments and collective singing. 

In short, it is wild, ebullient, joyful and agitated at its core, which make the moments of quiet sadness even stronger. An album of communal joy and sadness. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York - Entity  (Libra, 2019)

We will end our review overview with two of Fujii's larger ensemble, starting with Orchestra New York, already the 11th album of this band. It consists of Oscar Noriega and  Briggan Krauss on alto sax, Ellery Eskelin and Tony Malaby on tenor, Andy Laster on baritone, Natsuki Tamura, Herb Robertson and Dave Ballou on trumpet, Curtis Hasselbring and Joe Fiedler on trombone, Nels Cline on guitar, Stomu Takeishi on bass, and Ches Smith on drums. Fujii herself 'limits' her input to composition and conducting. 

Her orchestral music is closer to classical music in its structure and arrangement than to jazz. This is not a big band where all musicians are active all the time, quite to the contrary, the moments when the orchestra performs in full are rather sparse, functioning more like anchor points in between the interaction of smaller subgroups of the band. This gives a wave-like impression, with quieter moments getting the time for a few instruments to interact, carving out themes and ideas that then fully develop in the full orchestral volume. Each time two instruments engage in timbral dialogue or exploratory soloing, against the majestic groundswell of the full orchestra. The intimate converses with the inevitable, the fragile with the solid, the individual with the collective, freedom with planning. Each band member gets his space to solo (maybe with the exception of Tony Malaby?), and Fujii conducts at specific times to bring their collective force to the foreground, sometimes as agreed parts, often as the result of real-time conduction by prior agreed hand signals (to determine length, volume, dynamics). 

Despite the totally different nature of the band, the ambition and the context, Fujii's sonic chiaroscuro is as present with her orchestral works as with her smaller ensembles. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Satoko Fujii Orchestra Tokyo - Live!! (Libra, 2020)

Thanks to digital platforms such as Bandcamp, the "Live!!" album of the Satoko Fujii Orchestra Tokyo is now also available digitally. The original CD dates from 2006. 

The orchestra consists of Sachi Hayasaka on soprano and alto sax, Kunihiro Izumi on alto sax, Kenichi Matsumoto and Masaya Kimura on tenor, Ryuichi Yoshida on baritone, Natsuki Tamura, Takao Watanabe, Yoshihito Fukumoto and Yusaku Shirotani on trumpet, Haguregumo Nagamatsu, Tetsuya Higashi and Yasuyuki Takahashi on trombone, Satoko Fujii on piano, Toshiki Nagata on bass, and Akira Horikoshi on drums. 

In contrast to "Entity", the music is more composed, more structured and more collective throughout

Listen and download from Bandcamp

In sum, this is remarkable output again. Fujii's openness to collaborate with others, and her willingness to be challenged by new sounds created by other musicians is only equalled by her musical voice that remains recognisable throughout (even when she doesn't play piano herself). I know you will ask me which albums I would recommend. I'll answer that it depends on my mood and the time of day. I hope the descriptions above will guide the interested listener to the music she or he likes. 


Chris said...

Satoko Fujii must surely rate as one of the most prolific artists out there. And definitely one of the most consistent. I'm always amazed at her talent, and not just as a performer.
I own over 70 albums of hers, performing as part of a Trio, Quartet, Orchestra, Duo, Solo etc, but am yet to hear at least half a dozen of these 24 albums reviewed here.


Gary Chapin said...

This was a wildly ambitious undertaking on your part, and so very well executed! I am embarrassed that I have not listened to her before. THERE IS SO MUCH OUT THERE. Thanks for this.


Koen B said...

Thanks for this giant effort. Extremely appreciated!