Satoko Fujii Orchestra

Double Take

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Double Take is the musical statement establishing Satoko Fujii as one of the most exciting jazz composers of the late '90s, thus bringing the "ascension" phase of her career to an end. This two-CD set features two incarnations of the Satoko Fujii Orchestra: the "East" version, on Disc 1, the live Okegawa 10/99 recording, and the second disc's "West" lineup, recorded a month later in NY's Avatar Studios.

The album opens with a fresh reading of the title track from Fujii's South Wind (1998, Leo Lab), a work based on a Japanese scale that may be Fujii's most oriental-sounding composition. Then comes "Ruin," a suite in four parts. A series of tone poems, "Ruin" will remain one of Fujii's masterpieces. Born out of silence, it builds to a climax in "The Desert" just to come down and surprise the listener when ("The Megalopolis") begins on an urban-like frenzy. The East band (15 players from Japan's new jazz scene) is impressively tight, loud, and exuberant with an energy level close to Peter Brötzmann's Chicago tentet. Disc two opens with "Ruin," which serves as a point of comparison between the two bands. The West cohorts (which includes Briggan Krauss, Chris Speed, Andy Laster, Cuong Vu, and Stomu Takeishi) have a less in-your-face approach, playing with more nuance but, paradoxically, with a little less feeling.

The music of Satoko Fujii (and her husband, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, since he contributes three pieces) is surprisingly easy to listen to and can appeal to a wide audience of jazz fans. Her writing on Double Take is packed with energy, contrasts, solid grooves (like on "Tobifudo"), and power-brass galore while staying more punchy and concise than the Orchestra's previous release, Jo. This one is a definitive must-have.

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