Satoko Fujii Orchestra


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Pianist Fujii has assembled a 15-piece band of intensely fierce improvisers from various sources, including NYC, Boston and Japan. Trumpeter Jack Walrath (ex-Charles Mingus), saxophonists Briggan Krauss and Chris Speed (Knitting Factory stable), trumpeter John Carlson and trombonist Curtis Hasselbring (Either/Orchestra), trumpeter Dave Ballou (Orange Then Blue, among others), trombonist Joey Sellers (a progressive big bandleader in his own right), and countrymen Stomu Takieshi (electric bass) and trumpeter Natsuki Tamura are part of this multi-national, multi-faceted avant-garde improvising unit. Fujii penned six of these eight pieces. "Jo" is apparently a midnight-dancing wolf, as depicted during the stalking title cut, brimming with counterpointed horn layers and a stealthy, slow 10/8 funk rhythm. Drummer Aaron Alexander solos, with Takieshi responding by his carnivorous lonesome. "Kyu" is free New Orleans-flavored funk-rock with urgent, kinetic lines, running dragster-fast over skittering, dodge-car improvisations, while calmer, echoing motifs and Kodo-like drum slams accent Tamura's "Okesa-Yansado," with a quite symphonic coda. The mournful elongated chart of the ballad "Reminiscence" leads to rubato horns pulsing in ghostly fashion. Fujii's voice is her ensemble, but you hear traces of her pianistic personality during the Tamura composition "Wakerasuka" -- piano and percussion counterpoint trading places back and forth with sour, long horn tones, then combining forces, followed by group vocal outcries and a hard funk charge. Her inside-the-piano strings clattering inspires gossipy horns chattering amongst themselves for "Around the Corner," and the 13-minute "Sola" is slow-dirge funk, solemn and remorseful, quite mindful of a distinct Gil Evans approach. This is dense music with creative flourishes an occasional Oriental edge sewn in the fabric of richly textured writing and improvisation. Fujii has a unique concept, eluding hard definitions and parameters. Perhaps this is the opening salvo for what could be many expansive and intriguing works to come.

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