Satoko Fujii

Satoko Fujii: April Shower

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Released on the Japanese label Ewe in April 2001 and picked up a year later by Buzz for the European market, April Shower features piano solos, overdubbed piano duets, and duets with violinist Mark Feldman. In Satoko Fujii's discography, it stands as one of her most intimate, tender, and, therefore, listener-friendly efforts, close to her debut Something About Water on which her mentor, Paul Bley, duetted with her. Feldman appears on half of the pieces, and they are the best moments of the album. His adaptability to any context has become legendary, yet his playing preserves a burning passion (talented studio musicians -- even improvisers -- can sound cold, detached, just doing their job). When the lines call for a sense of yearning, a lyrical phrasing, Feldman puts it just right ("Then I Met You" is a heartbreaker). When things get more frenetic, he can deliver the energy (outstanding in "Nice Talking to You"). Fujii's solo pieces, whether made of one or two piano tracks, feel like interludes at first. Repeated listens reveal the depth of her compositions and their complementarity with the duets. They tap into something jazzier, bringing back the influence of Bley, but also McCoy Tyner and Cecil Taylor. Her range of expression, her ability to turn a mood inside out (as in "Behind the Notes" when that left-hand motif savagely enters halfway through), make this album something to cherish. April Shower is less intellectual-sounding than her trio, sextet, or orchestra recordings. It brings you closer to the woman and her love of the music. Highly recommended, especially to newcomers with a jazz background.

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