Satoko Fujii: piano; Masaya Kimura and Kenichi Matsumoto: tenor sax; Sachi Hayasaka: soprano and alto sax; Kunihiro Izumi: alto sax; Ryuichi Yoshida: baritone sax; Christian Pruvost, Natsuki Tamura, Yoshihito Fukumoto, Takao Watanabe: trumpet; Yasuyuki Takahashi, Haguregumo Nagamatsu, Toshihiro Koike: trombone; Toshiki Nagata: bass; Akira Horikoshi and Peter Orins: drums.
Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii, a highly creative exponent of the international avant-garde jazz scene, has been riding on the crest of the wave through formations that range from solo to large ensembles.
Throughout more than two decades, experimentalism has been a trait she exploits in each of her albums.
Her latest feature, Peace, recorded with the 15-piece Orchestra Tokyo, is a stunningly arranged tribute to the late Canadian guitarist Kelly Churko, who lived in Japan for more than a decade before dying of cancer in 2014. This is the pianist’s fifth album with this particular orchestra, another high point in her vast curriculum of big-band formations (New York, Nagoya, Kobe, and Berlin), and an excellent follow-up to her duo recording with the bassist Joe Fonda, precisely entitled Duet.
The album kicks in with “2014”, a 32-minute challenge delivered with no obstructions or discriminations. It features two French guests: drummer Peter Orins and trumpeter Christian Pruvost. The latter opens the curtains with breath attacks and then steadfast phrases, entering into a strange dialogue with the former. Subsequently, the saxophonist Masaya Kimura and the trombonist Yasuyuki Takahashi create another unorthodox, microtonal dialogue. Advancing like a storm, the tune easily gets the shape of a 4/4 orchestral jubilation populated with percussive contrivance and brash horn blows. All wrapped up in psychedelic effervescence.
“Jasper” has no connotations with the amazing vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, who gave the same title to one of his most unforgettable tunes. It was rather composed by Fujii’s husband, the trumpeter Natsuki Tamura. In a symbiotic exchange, Toshiki Nagata’s balmy bowed bass and Sachi Hayasaka’s melodious soprano wave at each other in an accessible, curvy salutation peppered by Oriental flavors. Despite the pacific atmosphere, don’t be surprised if paroxysms arise in a sporadic way.
Highly contrasting is the title track, a colorful eruption of avant-jazz muscularity whose horn infestation creates sonic noise and confusion, even if well-defined melodic lines inhabit in the back.
Chosen to close, is “Beguine Nummer Eins”, a grandiose triumph that glides as a freeing hymn, similar to those of Carla Bley or Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra. A voluptuous susceptibility takes possession of the melodic strolls, which are galvanized by Yoshihito Fukumoto’s emphatic trumpet solo.
Whether attracting or repulsing, Fujii’s music is always full of passion and unlimited artistic creativity. Peace was forged by the hands of an adventurous pianist and master conductor who’s capable of moving in different directions with an extravagant magnificence.
01 – 2014 ►02 – Jasper ►04 – Beguine Nummer Eins