As the most prolific recording artist of the past two decades, pianist Satoko Fujii keeps churning out excellent modern progressive improvisation jazz. This trumpet led quartet, performing a set of mainstream modal compositions, might be for a bit of a surprise for her staunchest fans. No less potent than her more free music, Fujii proves adept at this style, playing music that remains compelling, but also tuneful and accessible to a wide jazz audience. The group sound recalls very few bands of their type, but perhaps a more progressive and searching Freddie Hubbard comes close to mind, with the challenging music of Herb Robertson or Paul Smoker a close second. Fujii is at or near the peak of her powers, unafraid to lash out and deal some real life improvisations that individualistically move her into her own realm, and away from obvious influence Cecil Taylor. Tamura Natsuki is the trumpeter who holds all the trump cards, commanding his space off the bat on the opener "Sunset in Savannah," a fast 6/8 pile driver of a hip, modal, modern jazz piece that sets the energetic pace. In 7/8, a clean and bright, very melodic stance steadied by the ostinato electric bass guitar of Takeharu Hayakawa focuses Fujii and Natsuki during "In the Town You Don't See on the Map," demonstrating a wonderfully inventive concept within the framework of the rhythm. The drama level is turned up past the red zone on "Waltz for Godzilla" and "Flying Elephant, " the former a ponderously heavy, long winded riff as if the pachyderm is attempting elevation, but is not quite slim enough, and for the latter, a romping, stomping implied waltz in 5/4 time has a pronounced imagery leading to Hayakawa's towering, finger popping but thorny solo. The band goes into their comfortable free range zone on the non-arranged title track for the God of Wine "Bacchus," a dark samba with an Arabian feel identifies the rock-ish "In the Town Called Empty," and there are two versions of the jagged edged "Natsu Mae," saturated with spastic stop-start but playful lines, the second version done "with effect" completely distorted. As Fujii does not play the States very much, her star is hampered by live performance ops. Nonetheless, considering her vast recorded output over 15 years, one could make a strong case, supported by this excellent CD, that she could be the most important creative musician of our time, a contention hard to argue.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos