Thursday, October 1, 2015

Satoko Fujii Orchestra Berlin, Ichigo Ichie

From composer-pianist Satoko Fujii comes the initial recording of her first European-based big band, Satoko Fujii Orchestra Berlin. Ichigo Ichie (Libra 212-037) features the band giving us high spirited readings of the long title piece (in four parts) and a 15-minute rendering of "ABCD." The orchestra is a logical outgrowth of Satoko and husband Matsuki Tamura's move to Berlin in 2011.

Satoko on piano is joined by 11 musicians, including Matsuki Tamura and two others on trumpets, Matthias Schubert and Gebhard Ullmann on tenor saxes, plus baritone, trombone, guitar, bass and two drummers (Michael Griener and Peter Orins).

"Ichigo Ichie" means "once in a lifetime." Satoko composed it for the Chicago Jazz Festival in 2013 and it receives an excellent performance here for the recorded premiere. It is filled with rousing tutti passages and improvised interludes for various instruments alone or in varying combinations.

"ABCD" continues Satoko's special avant jazz approach. The parts were written and numbered. On the day of performance each member selects at will one of the numbered parts, so that each performance will have a maximal spontaneity and freshness, as one can readily hear in the version recorded for this album.

If you already know Fujii's large-ensemble music, this music very much is a continuation of it. It is excellent at any rate, filled with energy and zest, good conceptual thinking and very spirited playing from all concerned.

It is one of her very best. So if you cannot go for the complete set of 70-plus albums she has recorded (!), certainly include this one in your library. It moves along well and has the special total wash of sound that Satoko's large band recordings have in abundance. A great band, too!

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