Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Satoko Fujii, Japanese Free Piano Powerhouse

Music aficionados in the United States don't always pay enough attention to what's happening in the rest of the world. Take Japan as an example. There is much going on over there, yet many of us don't really know much about it. Tzadik Records' New Japan series begins to rectify that lack, and we've covered a few of those releases in the various blogs in the last year or so.

Today we look at another one: Satoko Fujii's piano trio-duo-solo record Kitsume-bi. Fujii has magnificent ideas, a huge ear for the possibilities in free piano improvisation, and a style that does not have a derivative foundation. She goes her own way.

For the date she is joined by the always interesting Mark Dresser on bass and the explosive Jim Black on drums. For several cuts Sachi Hayasaka appears on soprano sax, and it's clear from those numbers that Sachi needs to be heard more over here.

But this is Satoko's show. There are some really compelling group presentations to be heard. Like the straight-eight motor-manic section of "Past Life," where a Pandora's Box of eighth notes spin wildly from Fujii's piano while bass and drums provide counter ballasts of sound parcels that contrast as well as complement.

Ms. Fujii has a sureness of execution and a confidence in her own stylistic parameters that translate into controlled yet at times wildly exuberant music, other times (especially in tandem with Ms. Hayasaka) ponderously reflective.

One ignores Satko Fujii at one's own peril. If you miss this CD, you miss a music making document that can be your personal blueprint for what's good about the improvised world today.

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