Reviews that mention Satoko Fujii

November 18, 2021

Satoko Fujii Tokyo Trio

Moon on the Lake
Libra Records 203-065

Paul Bley Trios

Touching & Blood Revisited

ezz-thetics 1108

Jimmy Giuffre

Free Fall Clarinet

ezz-thetics 1119

Jeff Lederer/Sunwatch Quartet

Eightfold Path

Little (i) music No #

Barry Altschul’s 3DOMFactor

Long Tall Sunshine

NotTwo MW 1012-2

Something in the Air: Understanding Pianist Paul Bley’s Musical Legacy

By Ken Waxman

Although Paul Bley died in 2016 the extent of his legacy and associations are still being felt. That’s because the pianist was one of the few jazz players who moved through several musical areas and made his mark on each. Born in Montreal on November 10, 1932, he would have been 88 this year. A piano protégé Bley began as a teenage Swing pianist in his native city. Yet he became so proficient a Bopper after his move to New York in the early 1950s that he was soon playing with Charles Mingus and Charlie Parker. An encounter with Ornette Coleman allowed him to bring freer ideas to his improvising and composing during the 1960s and he worked with members of the burgeoning Free Jazz movement during that decade and afterwards. Later on, while continuing to play contemporary jazz with various acoustic bands, he expanded his interests into early experiments with the Moog synthesizer and when he started his own record label he made sure that visual as well as audio tracks were created. He also taught part time at the New England Conservatory (NEC) and over the years collaborated and recorded with a cross section of international musicians. Read a more detailed view of Bley’s life and career in the February 2016 issue of The Whole Note. MORE

August 23, 2021

Satoko Fujii

Hazuki
Libra Records 201-063

Futari

Beyond

Libra Records 202-161

Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii somehow manages to interpolate offbeat creativity among her other projects involving multiple big bands, quartets, trios and duos. The fascinating Beyond Futari and Hazuki sessions are examples of that. Hazuki is a new solo session, while Beyond Futari is a first-ever duo recording with Sapporo-born, Berlin-based vibraphone player Taiko Saito. Each had a different genesis. The Futari duo was recorded in Uchiko mid-way through a Japanese tour; while about a year later Covid-19 restrictions forced Fujii to create the solo session in August in her sweltering Kobe City apartment. MORE

August 23, 2021

Futari

Beyond
Libra Records 202-161

Satoko Fujii

Hazuki

Libra Records 201-063

Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii somehow manages to interpolate offbeat creativity among her other projects involving multiple big bands, quartets, trios and duos. The fascinating Beyond Futari and Hazuki sessions are examples of that. Hazuki is a new solo session, while Beyond Futari is a first-ever duo recording with Sapporo-born, Berlin-based vibraphone player Taiko Saito. Each had a different genesis. The Futari duo was recorded in Uchiko mid-way through a Japanese tour; while about a year later Covid-19 restrictions forced Fujii to create the solo session in August in her sweltering Kobe City apartment. MORE

April 3, 2021

Satoko Fujii/Ikue Mori + Natsuki Tamura

Prickly Pear Cactus
Libra Records 203-062

Kaze & Ikue Mori

Sand Storm

Circum-Libra 205

Pre and post Covid-19 sessions that feature pianist Satoko Fujii and Ikue Mori’s electronics illuminate the ingenuity that improvised musicians can bring to programs no matter the circumstances. Sandstorm was recorded after a European tour where the New York-based laptop artist was a guest with the decade-old Kaze band featuring the pianist and her fellow Japan-native trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, plus two French associates, trumpeter Christian Pruvost and drummer Peter Orins. Created post-pandemic in a manner that threatens to become standard, Prickly Pear Cactus’ 10 tracks were created by the exchange of sound files from Mori with Fujii – and Tamura on four tracks – who then mixed and edited their contributions with her original sounds. MORE

April 3, 2021

Kaze & Ikue Mori

Sand Storm
Circum-Libra 205

Satoko Fujii/Ikue Mori + Natsuki Tamura

Prickly Pear Cactus

Libra Records 203-062

Pre and post Covid-19 sessions that feature pianist Satoko Fujii and Ikue Mori’s electronics illuminate the ingenuity that improvised musicians can bring to programs no matter the circumstances. Sandstorm was recorded after a European tour where the New York-based laptop artist was a guest with the decade-old Kaze band featuring the pianist and her fellow Japan-native trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, plus two French associates, trumpeter Christian Pruvost and drummer Peter Orins. Created post-pandemic in a manner that threatens to become standard, Prickly Pear Cactus’ 10 tracks were created by the exchange of sound files from Mori with Fujii – and Tamura on four tracks – who then mixed and edited their contributions with her original sounds. MORE

February 21, 2021

Gato Libre

Koneko
Libra Records 103-60

Vicente/Brice/Sanders

Unnavigable Tributaries

Multikulti Project SMT 019

Trumpet-focused trios which are as dissimilar as Japan is to Europe, what Unnavigable Tributaries and Koneko have in is common how each produces enough timbral and melodic designs for full musical programs in spite of limited instrumentation. Portuguese trumpeter Luís Vicente, who in part of bands with the likes of Onno Govaert works with bassist Ollie Brice and Mark Sanders from the UK, who together have been the rhythmic component of many FreeMusic groups. The connection is even closer on the other disc, since trumpeter Natsuki Tamura and Satoko Fujii, here playing accordion, are husband-and-wife. This iteration of Gato Libre has been together since 2012, with the third member trombonist Yasuko Kaneko, also part of Fuji’s many big bands. MORE

February 11, 2021

Satoko Fujii/Natskuki Tamura/Ramon Lopez

Mantle
NotTwo MW 10003-2

Dave Gisler Trio with Jaimie Branch

Zürich Concert

Intakt CD 357

Steph Richards

Supersense

Northern Spy NS 130

Duthoit/Waziniak/Brechet/Hautzinger

Don’t Worry Be Happy

Intrication Tri 002

Bruckmann/Djll/Heule/Nichi/Smith

Brittle Feebling

Humbler 006

Something in the Air: Uncommon trumpet groupings demonstrate unusual and unique textures

By Ken Waxman MORE

January 11, 2021

El Intruso 13th Annual International Critics Poll 2020

Spanish Website
Ken Waxman’s ballot

Ken Waxman

(Periodista canadiense, editor de JazzWord. Durante muchos años ha escrito para los principales periódicos canadienses e internacionales y realiza comentarios sobre música en diferentes programas de radio) www.jazzword.com

Músico: “Covid 19”

Músico Revelación: “Covid 19”

Grupo: Leimgruber/Demierre/Phillips

Grupo Revelación: Tonus

Álbum: Various Artists – New Improvised Music from Buenos Aires (ESP Disk)
MORE

April 8, 2020

Satoko Fujii/Tatsuya Yoshida

Baikamo
Libra Records 2012-059

Satoko Fujii/Ramón López

Confluence

Libra Records 2012-057

Too diffuse to be called The Two Sides of Satoko Fujii, these recent CDs allow a comparison of the strategies the Japanese pianist employs improvising with two drummers with boldly distinct agendas. By the same token, Fujii’s creativity has more facets than a diamond, considering that she’s played in nearly every configuration from big band to solo and most in-between.

Fujii has long had a musical relationship with both percussionists. Spanish-born, Paris-based Ramón López is a versatile Jazz-Improv stylist known for his work with aggregations ranging from ones featuring Barry Guy to the Orchestre National de Jazz. Picking up where they left off 15 years ago, is the pianist’s duo with Japanese drummer Tatsuya Yoshida. Yoshida’s credentials range from founding The Ruins to playing with Derek Bailey. MORE

April 8, 2020

Satoko Fujii/Ramón López

Confluence
Libra Records 2012-057

Satoko Fujii/Tatsuya Yoshida

Baikamo

Libra Records 2012-059

Too diffuse to be called The Two Sides of Satoko Fujii, these recent CDs allow a comparison of the strategies the Japanese pianist employs improvising with two drummers with boldly distinct agendas. By the same token, Fujii’s creativity has more facets than a diamond, considering that she’s played in nearly every configuration from big band to solo and most in-between.

Fujii has long had a musical relationship with both percussionists. Spanish-born, Paris-based Ramón López is a versatile Jazz-Improv stylist known for his work with aggregations ranging from ones featuring Barry Guy to the Orchestre National de Jazz. Picking up where they left off 15 years ago, is the pianist’s duo with Japanese drummer Tatsuya Yoshida. Yoshida’s credentials range from founding The Ruins to playing with Derek Bailey. MORE

August 13, 2019

Satoko Fujii Orchestra Tokyo

Kikoeru Tribute to Masaya Kimura
Libra Records 215-055

Alister Spence and Satoko Fujii Orchestra Kobe

Imagine Meeting You Here

Alister Spence Music ASM 008

A couple of weighty baubles commemorating the ongoing celebrations that marked Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii’s 60th birthday, these circular presents preserve more instances of her big band skills. The composer/conductor who has organized large ensembles in New York, Berlin and throughout Japan is here involved with two different big bands creatively exploring separate suspects of the orchestral idea. MORE

August 13, 2019

Alister Spence and Satoko Fujii Orchestra Kobe

Imagine Meeting You Here
Alister Spence Music ASM 008

Satoko Fujii Orchestra Tokyo

Kikoeru Tribute to Masaya Kimura

Libra Records 215-055

A couple of weighty baubles commemorating the ongoing celebrations that marked Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii’s 60th birthday, these circular presents preserve more instances of her big band skills. The composer/conductor who has organized large ensembles in New York, Berlin and throughout Japan is here involved with two different big bands creatively exploring separate suspects of the orchestral idea. MORE

May 17, 2019

Mahobin

Live at the Big Apple in Kobe
Libra Records 204-50

Apparently part of a multi-year plan to expose herself musically in just about every configuration is this first-ever session by a new quartet featuring Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii. She’s already someone whose leadership of big bands in Europe, the U.S. and her home country is only outnumbered by membership in the many groups in which she’s involved from duos to quartets. As with the majority of her other ensembles, Mahobin or magic bottle, features her husband, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura and this one also includes Danish saxophonist Lotte Aker and New York-based electronics expert Ikue Mori. MORE

January 6, 2019

Alister Spence/Satoko Fujii

Intelsat
Alister Spence Music ASM 007

Kira Kira t

Bright Force t

Libra Records 204-048

September 2017 was a busy time for Alister Spence and Satoko Fujii. Continuing their collaboration which had begun in 2007, Fujii, the Japanese pianist who sometimes seems to be part of as many bands as Donald Trump sends tweets, and Spence, the Australian keyboardist, known for his groundbreaking take on the jazz piano trio with his inside-outside group, were not only in the midst of a Japanese tour, but also recorded these quality CDs within five days of one another. Bright Force is another from the Kira Kira quartet, which features the two plus trumpeter Natsuki Tamura and drummer Ittetsu Takemura, while Intelsat is one of the duo’s duet sessions. Although each is more than proficient on clavier and electronics, Fujii sticks to the piano on both discs and Spence improvises on electric piano, effects pedals and preparations. MORE

January 6, 2019

Kira Kira

Bright Force
Libra Records 204-048

Alister Spence/Satoko Fujii

Intelsat

Alister Spence Music ASM 007

September 2017 was a busy time for Alister Spence and Satoko Fujii. Continuing their collaboration which had begun in 2007, Fujii, the Japanese pianist who sometimes seems to be part of as many bands as Donald Trump sends tweets, and Spence, the Australian keyboardist, known for his groundbreaking take on the jazz piano trio with his inside-outside group, were not only in the midst of a Japanese tour, but also recorded these quality CDs within five days of one another. Bright Force is another from the Kira Kira quartet, which features the two plus trumpeter Natsuki Tamura and drummer Ittetsu Takemura, while Intelsat is one of the duo’s duet sessions. Although each is more than proficient on clavier and electronics, Fujii sticks to the piano on both discs and Spence improvises on electric piano, effects pedals and preparations. MORE

September 6, 2018

Satoko Fujii

This Is It!
Libra 203-049

Agustí Fernández & Johannes Nästesjö

Like Listening with your Fingertips

Konvoj Records KOR 013

William Parker

Lake of Light –Compositions for AquaSonics

Gotta Let It Out GLIO 19 CD

Jordan/Fielder/Futterman/Swell

Masters of Improvisation

Valid Records VR-1016

James Brandon Lewis/Chad Taylor

Radiant Imprints

Off CD 038

Something In The Air: The Established Maturity of The Guelph Jazz Festival
MORE

August 6, 2018

Satoko Fujii Orchestra Berlin

Ninety-Nine Years
Libra Records 211-047

Some people collect classic cars, others specific paintings, but Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii collects groups. Besides the number of duos, trios and quartets the peripatetic pianist is part of, she has organized – at last count – five different big bands, each relating to where in Europe, Asia or North America she happened to be residing at the time. At the same time Ninety-Nine Years, a new configuration of her Orchestra Berlin, demonstrates that her skill as orchestrator, pianist and composer are formidable for every item in her collection. She has help of course. Featured on this disc’s five tracks, are besides her husband, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, of international, Berlin-based players Polish baritone saxophonist Paulina Owczarek, French drummer Peter Orins, Canadian trumpeter Lina Allemano, and Germans Richard Koch (trumpet(; Matthias Müller (trombone); Matthias Schubert and Gebhard Ullmann (tenor saxophones); Jan Roder (bass) and Michael Griener (drums). MORE

June 11, 2018

Jazz Cerkno 23

May 17 to 19 2018
Cerkno, Slovenia

By Ken Waxman

Forty-one kilometres west of Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital, the compact village of Cerkno has been host to a world-class jazz festival for almost a quarter century. Jazz Cerkno 2018 added to the illustrious tradition with three days of notable performances mostly in a specially erected canvas tent, complete with a sophisticated sound system, adjoining the darkened and homey Bar Gabrijel. What was most evident was how musicians from this country of fewer than 2¼-million people, which arguably has benefitted most economically from the break-up of the former Yugoslavia, can easily hold their own in the international improvised music scene. MORE

June 1, 2018

Smith/Tamura/Fujii/Mori

Aspiration
Libra 204-043

Wadada Leo Smith

Najwa

TUM CD 049

After more than a half century of diverse music making, at 76, Wadada Leo Smith is now considered a major American composer, player and academic theoretician, with the consequent awards and accolades that accrue from that status. Yet they haven’t kept him away from new objectives. Acknowledged for his large-form and solo work, he’s also been part of many combos since he Leroy Jenkins and Anthony Braxton hooked up in the late 1960s. Known for his skills in an all-acoustic environment these new CDs demonstrate his dexterity in an electronic environment and true to form each illuminates a singular aspect of that area. MORE

January 6, 2018

Larry Ochs Sax and Drumming Core

Wild Red Yellow
RogueArt ROG-0075

The Rempis Percussion Quartet

Cochonnerie

Aerophonic 014

Two post-modern saxophonists playing three of their own extended compositions backed up by a drum team plus. That’s the simple description of these discs showcasing Bay area tenor and sopranino saxophonist Larry Ochs’ six-member Sax and Drumming Core and Chicago-based alto, tenor and baritone saxophonist Dave Rempis’ four-piece Percussion Quartet. Yet like juxtaposing Chicago and Berkley because they’re both cities, there are more differences than similarities between the two exciting discs. MORE

January 1, 2018

Satoko Fujii Orchestra Tokyo

Peace
Libra Records 217-039

Stefan Schultze Large Ensemble

Ted the Bellhop

Why Play Jazz RS 033

Despite the hardships and hassles involved organizing, rehearsing and writing for a big band, many composers still put up with these inconveniences and uncertainty in order to have their ideas expressed in a wider, more vibrant forum. It’s how most would prefer watching a film on a wide-screen than on a smartphone. At the same time while almost all of these orchestras exist on a semi-regular basis their aims differ according to the leader’s ideas. MORE

October 6, 2017

Trouble Kaze

June
Helix LX 009

What do you do to change things around when you’re a constantly experimenting improviser, part of a long-running French-Japanese quartet consisting of two trumpeters, a pianist and a drummer? Well if you’re collectively the members of Kaze, which has been well-received in this format since 2011, you further enlarge the band. But like the biblical tale of Noah who had animals march into his ark by twos, Kaze arranged for the continued evolution of the band by adding an additional trumpeter and another drummer. Now called Trouble Kaze, the group’s unique configuration of Japanese trumpeter Natsuki Tamura and French trumpeter Christian Pruvost now includes concurrent timbres from French pianist Sophie Angel alongside Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii; while Didier Lasserre, another French drummer joins his countryman Peter Orins in the percussion section. MORE

August 4, 2017

Label spotlight

Circum-Disc
By Ken Waxman

Creating more exposure and new opportunities for the music of the members of Muzzix collective was the idea behind establishing Circum-Disc in 2004. Based in Lille, France, the label now not only also puts out some discs by non-Muzzix members, but has also established two additional imprints, HeliX and microcidi. “The idea at the beginning was the same as the idea of creating a collective: being independent in our choice, and master all the aspect of our artistic projects,” explains drummer Peter Orins, one of Muzzik’s artistic directors and Circum-Disc label coordinator. “In the beginning Circum-Disc was only devoted to Circum project, or the ‘contemporary jazz’ side of Muzzix. HeliX was launched in 2007 with two releases of La Pieuvre, which was not a Circum band, but from another collective, Le Crime, which was dedicated to improvised and experimental music. So HeliX is more about free-music and experimental music. In 2010 Circum and Le Crime merged as Muzzix. As for microcidi, the idea was to release live concerts and projects coming from outside the collective.” MORE

February 13, 2017

Satoko Fujii/Joe Fonda

Duet
Long Song Records LSROC 140

Porta Palace Collective

Neuroplastic Groove

Rudi Records RRJ 1031

Strikingly evident most of the time, there appears to be very little pianist/composer Satoko Fujii can’t do when it comes to improvised music. Like an actor who is as comfortable performing in unadorned comedy sketches as lavish costume theatricals, Fujii’s skills, are adaptable to situations ranging from bare-bones solo and duo meditations to group situations, stretching from her own small and big bands to affiliated work with ensembles of many sizes. MORE

February 13, 2017

Porta Palace Collective

Neuroplastic Groove
Rudi Records RRJ 1031

Satoko Fujii/Joe Fonda

Duet

Long Song Records LSROC 140

Strikingly evident most of the time, there appears to be very little pianist/composer Satoko Fujii can’t do when it comes to improvised music. Like an actor who is as comfortable performing in unadorned comedy sketches as lavish costume theatricals, Fujii’s skills, are adaptable to situations ranging from bare-bones solo and duo meditations to group situations, stretching from her own small and big bands to affiliated work with ensembles of many sizes. MORE

February 11, 2016

Paul Bley

A Modern Jazz Piano Master
By Ken Waxman

Paul Bley who died at 83 in early January was probably never bothered that he was usually described as Canada’s second best-known jazz pianist; Oscar Peterson was the first. But Bley, who shared a Montreal birth with Peterson, and who similarly was honored with induction into the Order of Canada in 2008 – albeit 30 plus years after Peterson – was for all intents and purposes a much more radical pianist than O.P. Peterson, seven years Bley’s senior, was a flamboyant stylist who adapted Art Tatum’s all-encompassing swing era techniques to the structure of modern jazz during an almost incalculable number of performances from the late 1940s until his death in 2007. However Bley, represented on more than 100 discs during his career, cycled through a variety of keyboard strategies from the outgoing to the cerebral, eventually matching the atonality of off-centre techniques with straightforward, melodically measured motion. He was also one of the first serious improvisers to deal with the sonic possibilities that could be extracted from the then brand-new portable Moog synthesizer. Later, such better-known pianists as Keith Jarrett, The Bad Plus’ Ethan Iverson and Satoko Fujii developed their playing following the examples of Bley’s breakthroughs. MORE

December 16, 2015

Satoko Fujii Orchestra Berlin

Ichigo Ichie
Libra Records 212 037

Circum Grand Orchestra

12

Circum-Disc CD 1401

Orcheatra Senza Confini/Orkester Brez Meja

Orcheatra Senza Confini/Orkester Brez Meja

Dobialabel

Lawrence D. “Butch” Morris

Possible Universe

NBR SA Jazz 014

Bertrand Denzler/Onceim

Morph

Confront ccs 37

Something In The Air: Big Bands Redux

By Ken Waxman

Although most people associate big bands with the Swing Era dances and later, jazzier, manifestations such as Nimmons’n’Nine and The Boss Brass, despite the dearth of venues and difficulties of keeping even a combo working steadily, musicians persist in utilizing large ensembles. Like muralists who prefer the magnitude of a large canvas, composers, arrangers and players appreciate the colours and breath available using numerous, well-balanced instruments. MORE

April 12, 2015

Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York

Shiki
Libra Records 215-036

Ananda Gari

T-Duality

Auand Records AU 9041

Tineke Postma

Sonic Halo

Challenge Records CR 73370

Ben Goldberg

Orphic Machine

BAG Productions BAG 007

SITA: Cutting-Edge Free Improvisation at The Music Gallery

By Ken Waxman

Major improvisers from elsewhere frequently play Toronto, but not as often do they appear with an all-star line-up. That’s what happens on April 29 when alto saxophonist Tim Berne’s Snakeoil is in concert at The Music Gallery. Berne, who has been on the cutting edge of advanced jazz for 30-odd years, arrives with three younger players who have distinguished themselves on the New York scene: fellow reedist Oscar Noriega, pianist Matt Mitchell and drummer Ches Smith. This being the 21th Century and past the age of consistently working groups, each – including Berne – is involved in many other projects. MORE

March 18, 2014

Kaze

Tornado
Circum Libra Records 202

Trumpets and Drums

Live in Ljubljana

Clean Feed CF 282 CD

Taking legendary musical battles like those of King Oliver vs. Freddie Keppard as a starting point, trumpet duals are as old as Jazz itself. Nonetheless unreserved experimentation, which has characterized the best improvised music over the past few decades, has transformed the idea of so-called cutting contests into episodes of cooperation. You can note it in these CDs which both feature two trumpeters with rhythmic accompaniment. Not only is there no attempt by any of the four brass men involved to Roy Eldridge-like blow his partner out of the picture, but despite a congruence of instruments, neither instrument sounds remotely like the other. MORE

March 8, 2014

Satoko Fujii

Gen Himmel
Libra Records 101-033

Myra Melford

Life Carries Me This Way

Firehouse 12 Records FH12-04-01-18

Kaja Draksler

The Lives of Many Others

Clean Feed CF 286 CD

By Ken Waxman

Solo sessions of any sort are demanding; they’re even more so when the piano is involved. That’s because, consciously or not, the player has hovering in the background the entire solo jazz piano history from Jelly Roll Morton to Cecil Taylor. Three pianists from three different continents face that history imaginatively with these releases. MORE

November 28, 2013

Satoko Fujii

Spring Storm
Libra Records 203-034

Sophie Agnel/John Edwards/Steve Noble

Météo

Clean Feed CF 272 CD

Craig Taborn Trio

Chants

ECM 2326

Probably the most respected of all Jazz configurations from all parts of the modern spectrum is the archetypal piano, bass and drum trio. Just because it’s the standard modus operandi for stylists ranging from Keith Jarrett and Oscar Peterson to Bill Evans and Ahmad Jamal doesn’t means that the end product has to be the same. Especially evident in this trio of disc involving American, French, British and Japanese players is that originality results when the expected hierarchy of the piano-and-rhythm-section is shattered. In each of these discs creation is among equal partners. MORE

October 14, 2013

Festival Report

Guelph Jazz Festival
By Ken Waxman

New combination and new conceptions, sporadically sprinkled with touches of exotica, characterized the 20th anniversary edition of the Guelph Jazz Festival (GJF) September 4-8. Affiliated with a contiguous academic Colloquium on improvisation, the GJF, located in a small university city, fewer than 100 kilometres west of Toronto, has from its beginning stretched the definition of “jazz”, while avoiding populist pandering. The approach obviously works well, with the GJF slowly expanding. On Saturday, afternoon and evening free outdoor concerts now take place in front of city hall; the free, dusk-to-dawn Nuit Blanche offers intimates performances in non-traditional downtown spaces. Plus a full schedule of workshops and formal concerts unrolls each day. MORE

September 14, 2013

Satoko Fujii Ma-Do

Time Stands Still
NotTwo MW 897-2

Bomata

Arômes d’allieurs

Malasartes mam 016

Wadada Leo Smith and TUM Orchestra

Occupy The World

TUM CD 037-2

Nicole Mitchell’s Ice Crystal

Aquarius

Delmark DE 5004

Something In The Air: The Guelph Jazz Festival Turns 20

By Ken Waxman

Twenty years after its modest beginning, the Guelph Jazz Festival (GJF), which this year takes place September 3 to 8, has grown to be one of this country’s major improvised music celebrations. Unlike many other so-called jazz fests which lard their programs with crooners masquerading as jazz singers, tired rock or pop acts, or so-called World or C&W performers who make no pretense of playing jazz, the GJF continues to showcase committed improvisers in sympathetic settings including during the fourth installment of the dusk-to-dawn Nuit Blanche. MORE

March 5, 2013

Label Spotlight:

Libra Records
By Ken Waxman

“All projects have their own stories and I now have more than 60 stories I can tell,” explains pianist/composer/bandleader Satoko Fujii when asked about her recording career. Luckily more than 32 of these stories are available from Tokyo-based Libra records, a label she and her husband, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, founded in 1996. Although the highly praised pianist and trumpeter occasionally record for other imprints, Libra reflects her most personal projects, including duets and trios with Tamura and other Japanese and Western musicians, solo projects, records by her New York and Japanese big bands, her avant-rock-free jazz combo and a quartet in which she plays accordion. MORE

July 11, 2012

Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York

ETO
Libra Records 215-029

Le GGRIL avec Evan Parker

Vivaces

Tour de Bras TDB9006 CD

The Royal Improvisers Orchestra

Live at the Bimhuis

Riot Impro 01

London Improvisers Orchestra

Lio Leo Leon

psi 11.04

Something in the Air: New Soloists for Improvising Ensembles

By Ken Waxman

Adding another voice to an established improvising ensemble is more precarious than it seems. With a group having worked out strategies allowing for individual expression within a larger context – and without notated cues – the visitor(s) must be original without unbalancing the interface. Luckily the sessions here demonstrate successful applications. MORE

January 20, 2012

Rafale

Kaze
Circum-Libra Records 201

Jean-Luc Cappozzo-Edward Perraud

Suspension

Creative Sources CS 168 CD

Trumpet-percussion duos are about as common as they are popular. The simple reason for this is that it takes invention and stamina for three valves and tubing to produce as varied and audible sounds as the noisemakers in a drummer’s complete kit.

As he attests on the nearly-one-hour, multi-sectioned improvisation that makes up Suspension, Jean-Luc Cappozzo hardly lets this sort of situation upset him. Not only has the Luzillé, France-based trumpeter and bugler worked over time with the likes of bassist Joëlle Léandre and pianist Sophia Domancich, but he learned his trade in a military brass band. Similarly Paris-based drummer Edward Perraud is no Buddy Rich-styled basher. If anything he’s the converse in that he’s best-known as a member of the minimalist quintet Hubbub. MORE

December 30, 2011

Satoko Fujii Min-Yoh Ensemble

Watershed
Libra Records 204-028

Calling Signals 07

Live from Cafe Sting

Loose Toque LT 020

While the lowly accordion is probably the butt of more nasty jokes than any other instrument – Q: What’s the definition of a gentleman? A: Someone who can play the accordion but doesn’t – questing musicians are overcoming its square reputation to expose it in improvised music contexts. Plus not every one hears or plays it the same way.

On Live from Cafe Sting for instance, Norwegian Eivin One Pedersen uses his squeeze-box to take the chordal instrument’s role in a Jazz quartet otherwise consisting of veteran players: Stavanger’s Frode Gjerstad on clarinets and alto saxophone; London’s Nick Stephens on bass and Cape Town’s Louis Moholo-Moholo on drums. Watershed on the other hand features New York’s Andrea Parkins adding her accordion wizardry to traditional and original tunes reflecting Min-Yoh or traditional Japanese music. Considering that accordions are as prevalent in traditional Japanese music as djembes are Baroque compositions, Parkins’ keys and bellows add unique colors to the eight tracks here. One must also bear in mind that Watershed, made up of five Satoko Fujii compositions, is anything but authentic Japanese folk music. With the rest of the band consisting of Fujii’s piano, Natsuki Tamura’s trumpet and Curtis Hasselbring’s trombone, the sound also becomes close to try-anything American folk music. MORE

February 16, 2010

MacDonald/Fujii/Davidson/Tamura/Bancroft

Cities
Nu-Jazz NJGLO59-2

Larry Ochs Sax & Drumming Core

Stone Shift

RogueArt Rog-0025

Nearly ubiquitous internationally – or so it often appears – keyboardist Satoko Fujii and trumpeter Natsuki Tamura are as likely to be found playing with their American combos or big bands as with a variety of other groups located in their Tokyo hometown.

Open to more musical experiences then those where they call all the shots, husband-and-wife Tamura and Fujii, who plays piano, synthesizer and accordion, may join other groups for short or extended periods. These superior CDs, recorded two years apart, demonstrate their adaptability. Cities results from a two-day Glasgow gig that joined the two with a trio of Scottish improvisers –saxophonist Raymond MacDonald, guitarist Neil Davidson and drummer Tom Bancroft – all of whom are as omnipresent in that city’s music scene as Tamura and Fujii are internationally. MORE

February 16, 2010

Larry Ochs Sax & Drumming Core

Stone Shift
RogueArt Rog-0025

MacDonald/Fujii/Davidson/Tamura/Bancroft

Cities

Nu-Jazz NJGLO59-2

Nearly ubiquitous internationally – or so it often appears – keyboardist Satoko Fujii and trumpeter Natsuki Tamura are as likely to be found playing with their American combos or big bands as with a variety of other groups located in their Tokyo hometown.

Open to more musical experiences then those where they call all the shots, husband-and-wife Tamura and Fujii, who plays piano, synthesizer and accordion, may join other groups for short or extended periods. These superior CDs, recorded two years apart, demonstrate their adaptability. Cities results from a two-day Glasgow gig that joined the two with a trio of Scottish improvisers –saxophonist Raymond MacDonald, guitarist Neil Davidson and drummer Tom Bancroft – all of whom are as omnipresent in that city’s music scene as Tamura and Fujii are internationally. MORE

July 29, 2009

Joachim Kühn & Michael Wollny

Live at Schloss Elmau
ACT Music 9758-2

Satoko Fujii-Myra Melford

Under the Water

Libra Records 202-024

While for many the idea of dual piano duets may conjure up unfortunate visions of unchallenging background sounds from Ferrante and Teicher or alternately Billy Joel and Elton John camping it up, this communication among equals has a long history in so-called classical music and latterly in jazz. Neither of the duos here though could be confused with other well-known jazz twofers, such as those created by boogie-woogie stylists Pete Johnson and Albert Ammons, mainstreamers Hank Jones and Tommy Flanagan – or with each other. But each brings something characteristic and exceptional to the hoary concept. MORE

July 29, 2009

Satoko Fujii-Myra Melford

Under the Water
Libra Records 202-024

Joachim Kühn & Michael Wollny

Live at Schloss Elmau

ACT Music 9758-2

While for many the idea of dual piano duets may conjure up unfortunate visions of unchallenging background sounds from Ferrante and Teicher or alternately Billy Joel and Elton John camping it up, this communication among equals has a long history in so-called classical music and latterly in jazz. Neither of the duos here though could be confused with other well-known jazz twofers, such as those created by boogie-woogie stylists Pete Johnson and Albert Ammons, mainstreamers Hank Jones and Tommy Flanagan – or with each other. But each brings something characteristic and exceptional to the hoary concept. MORE

October 8, 2008

Variations on a Theme

Guelph Jazz Festival Musicians On Their Own
Extended Play

Barry Guy/Mats Gustafsson/Raymond Strid

Tarfala

Maya MCD0801

Junk Box

Cloudy Then Sunny

Libra Records 203-019

John Zorn

News For Lulu

hatOLOGY 650

Matana Roberts

The Chicago Project

Central Control CC1006PR

Wadada Leo Smith’s Golden Quartet

Tabligh

Cuneiform Rune 270

AMMÜ Quartet

AMMÜ Quartet
MORE

July 2, 2008

Carla Kihlstedt-Satoko Fujii

Minamo
Henceforth Records 105

Never underestimate the skill of improvisers in creating a sympathetic concordance, even if they arrive from seemingly incompatible foundations. Case in point is this CD, capturing two ad-hoc meetings between pianist Satoko Fujii and violinist Carla Kihlstedt.

Conservatory-trained, Kihlstedt is now most commonly found with avant-rock or avant-improv ensembles, while Fujii’s arranging and composing for small and large jazz ensembles hasn’t precluded interaction with Japanese folk and rock musicians. Perhaps mindful of the linked chamber music history of their instruments, the two bring advanced improvisational techniques to a combination that serves as a favorite vehicle for so-called classical composers. MORE

April 3, 2008

Satoko Fujii Min-Yoh Ensemble

Fujin Raijin
Victo cd 105

By Ken Waxman

Using the simplified scales and rhythm of Min-Yoh, or Japanese folk music, as her touchstone, pianist-composer Satoko Fujii has created a six-tune CD somewhat removed from the jazz big band and small combo sessions that characterize most of her burgeoning catalogue.

While simplified, folk structures don’t have to be simplistic. In fact, the sonic patterns from Fujii’s internal-strings-and-surface-keys inventions; the rasping, plunger tones and screeching brass lines from trumpeter Natsuki Tamura; and accordionist Andrea Parkins pumping the bellows of her instrument so that it alternately resembles an electric organ or a triggered sound source, are not unlike the strategies used in Fujii’s other compositions. Only trombonist Curtis Hasselbring’s pedal-point lowing or chromatic grace notes usually maintain the tunes’ basic melodiousness MORE

December 4, 2007

Double Duo

Crossword Puzzle
Libra Records 104-017

With trumpeters Angelo Verploegen of the Netherlands and Japan’s Natsuki Tamura serving as their corner men, two of jazz’s most idiosyncratic pianists – Holland’s Misha Mengelberg and Satoko Fujii, who divides her time between Tokyo and New York – face off in this live Amsterdam concert.

Completely improvised, the interpretations on the more than 33½-minute centerpiece and a less than 10-minute sequel allow the two keyboardists to move from foreground to background and vice versa; to complement each others’ phrases; to contrapuntally evoke other strategies; and to finish each others’ musical thoughts. It isn’t clear which pianist plays when, but it’s a good bet that to keep the performance off balance, trickster Mengelberg invokes burlesque piano exercises, harsh internal string-plucking and pedal pressure, while spinning out phrases that subtract or add to the proper number of beats. MORE

November 21, 2006

Satoko Fujii Quartet

Angelona
Libra 204-014

Developing a career as a lauded jazz pianist and big-band composer/arranger doesn’t appear to be enough for Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii. Flitting between Tokyo and New York, Fujii, and her partners and husband, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, have made a point of involving themselves in projects ranging from traditional acoustic combos to electronica-tinged one-on-one duets – she has even recorded on the synthesizer and the accordion.

Angelona is her fourth outing with this quartet and there’s still something off-putting about it. Essentially the band is made up of Fujii and Tamura, who may be eclectic, but very much come from the jazz-improv world, and an odd couple of unreformed rockers. Drummer Tatsuya Yoshida is one-half of industrial noise band The Ruins and electric bassist Takeharu Hayakawa, plays R&B as well as improv. MORE

January 16, 2006

TAMURA+SHARP+KATO+FUJII

In the Tank
Libra Records Libra 104-11

Analyzed like the arrangement of officials in the podium at a Beijing May Day parade, the way the personnel is displayed on IN THE TANK probably means that it’s more Natsuki Tamura’s session than one headed by Satoko Fujii. Usually in the past, his CDs have included broad, near-atonal intervals and harsh, electronic instruments, while hers, although sometimes featuring rock-styled musicians usually encompass classic jazz forms like the piano trio and the big band.

That doesn’t mean that pianist Fujii contributes any less to this aggressive free improv than Tamura, her trumpet-playing husband. Yet when you mix in the contributions of guitarist Takayuki Kato member of the Free Jazz Shibusashirazu Orchestra, who participated in a later Fujii quartet session where she first recorded on synthesizer, and New York guitarist and soprano saxophonist Elliott Sharp, whose eccentric outpourings have ranged from noise-rock to futuristic classical themes, her playing is the most distanced from electronics. MORE

November 15, 2005

Guelph Jazz Festival:

Improv On The Move
for CODA

Taking the concept of free-flowing improvisation a step further, one morning at this year’s Guelph Jazz Festival (GJF), 15 musicians performed simultaneously in four different whitewashed rooms of the Macdonald Stewart Art Centre.

The workshop developed this way, according to Ajay Heble, GJF artistic director, because so many musicians wanted to participate. Some – American alto saxophonist Marshall Allan, British pianist Veryan Weston, Québécois guitarist René Lussier and American banjoist Eugene Chadbourne – rooted on a spot and collaborated with whoever came along. Others moved from place to place and up and down the staircase as they played. MORE

May 16, 2005

SATOKO FUJII TRIO

Illusion Suite
Libra 203-009

Sixth chapter of the ongoing saga of Japanese-American pianist/composer Satoko Fujii’s American trio, ILLUSION SUITE shows her confidence in working up from the single tune short story to the novella length (34 minutes) with the title track here.

Along the way it not only shows off the skills and techniques of the pianist and her sidemen – bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Jim Black – but suggests this may be the most comfortable setting in which she works. Fujii, whose playing situations range from massive big bands to electric combos featuring a Japanese rhythm section with a strong fusion – heck, rock, orientation – thrives in this acoustic setting. MORE

December 27, 2004

ROVA: ORKESTROVA

An Alligator in Your Wallet
EWE

By Ken Waxman
December 27, 2004

Limited to Japanese distribution, An Alligator in Your Wallet is an important CD because it provides new evidence for what already should be regarded as truisms.

One is that the usually self-contained Bay area saxophone quartet ROVA can smoothly function as the sax section in any sized ensemble. The other is that pianist Satoko Fujii, who divides her time between Tokyo and New York, is a versatile enough composer to utilize the idiosyncrasies of these musicians in more experimental pieces than she usually writes for her own bans and combos. MORE

June 14, 2004

SATOKO FUJII QUARTET

Zephyros
Natsat MTCJ-3011

Hard, heavy and relentlessly rhythmic, ZEPHYROS is the third outing for pianist Satoko Fujii’s part Free Jazz/part Post Rock quartet. Combing the improv capabilities of Fujii and her husband trumpeter Natsuki Tamura with the more overt rock orientation of electric bassist Takeharu Hayakawa and Ruins drummer Tatsuya Yoshida, the seven pieces roar along with the speed and exhilaration of any ProgRock outing.

Trouble is, while the pianist uses her skills and compositional talents to create something more than the standard jazz fusion outing, she’s still only using one part of her talents. Like the protagonist in the 1950s film Three Faces of Eve, there are at least three Satoko Fujiis. One adds pounding piano lines to all the tunes she composed here. But the other two -- individually the sensitive stylist who records chamber improv with the likes of bassist Mark Dresser and violinist Mark Feldman and the accomplished composer/arranger who shapes big bands in Japan and New York -- are MIA. MORE

December 15, 2003

WILLIAM PARKER & THE LITTLE HUEY CREATIVE MUSIC ORCHESTRA

Spontaneous
Splasc (h) WS CDH 855

SATOKO FUJII ORCHESTRA-EAST
Before the Dawn
NATSAT MTCJ- 3010

Downtown, they say, is a state of mind. So is so-called downtown music, as these two live big band sessions demonstrate. With polychromatic ideas enlivening both groups, and with composers extending and distend the status quo, the points of congruence between SPONTANEOUS -- recorded in May 2002 at the epicentre of hip, Manhattan’s CBGB’s -- and BEFORE THE DAWN -- recorded 16 days later at a jazz festival in Hamamatsu, Japan -- are closer than you’d imagine. MORE

July 14, 2003

SOPHIA DOMANCICH

Pentacle
Sketch SKE 333032

SATOKO FUJII QUARTET
Minerva
Libra Records FK-204-007-CD

Brass front lines in a quartet and a quintet setting led from the piano bench are the points of congruence for these sessions. However the sounds of French pianist Sophia Domancich’s band range from contemporary to almost-outside jazz. On the other hand, Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii is attempting to link her modern, near-outside jazz with avant rock.

The compositions on Domancich’s CD comes together more often, using as they do some of the best inside/outside players in France. But at some points during its nine selections, the music becomes a bit too predictable. Braver in her aspirations, Fujii is unfortunately saddled with the drummer from a famous Nipponese rock band who bumps most of the time, rather than swings. Yet, although her session has many awkward moments, it’s often as listenable as the other, just to try to figure out what her quartet is attempting to do. MORE

September 30, 2002

SATOKO FUJII

Vulcan
LIBRA Records 204-005

Could it be that beneath the demure exterior of jazz pianist Satoko Fujii beats the heart of a heavy metal babe? That could be so on the evidence of this disc.

Fujii, who maintains residences in both Tokyo and New York has become justly famous for her big band work and sensitive small group sessions with the likes of New York downtowners violinist Mark Feldman, bassist Mark Dresser, drummer Jim Black, plus her husband, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura. This CD, on the other hand, finds her and the trumpeter trading licks with electric bassist Takeharu Hayakawa and, more surprisingly, drummer Tatsuya Yoshida, one-half of industrial noise-rock band The Ruins, who also vocalizes lyrics in a language all his own. MORE

January 8, 2002

SATOKO FUJII

April Shower
Ewe Records EWCC 0006

SATOKO FUJII
Junction
Ewe Records EWCD-0034

One of the dangers in analyzing the efforts of any non-North American improviser is expecting to find explicit references to his or her culture in the music.

Sure some creators introduce scraps of so-called native sounds into their creations -- Italians, South Africans and some Latin Americans are particularly good at that -- but that doesn’t mean that every foreign musicians wants to do the same thing. Which gets us to the work of pianist/composer Satoko Fujii. MORE

January 5, 2000

SATOKO FUJII

JO
Buzz zz76008

Like many young pianists faced with the looming reflections of giants such as Evans, Tyner, Taylor, Bley and Jarett, Satoko Fujii must confront musical schizophrenia. Should she perform in a fragile, introspective style or let herself be completely free? Unfortunately, it would seem that small group and solo work brings out her quiet side, which isn't all that distinctive.

That's why this album plays to her strengths. Working as part of a 15-piece ensemble, the pianist, who divides her time between New York and Japan, is able to become just one part of the mix, leaving the stronger statements to more extroverted players. More tellingly, she wrote six of the eight compositions. And the pulsating big band writing, built on ascending motifs, belies the delicacy of some of her solo work.

MORE