Satoko Fujii Four

Live in Japan 2004

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This album features Satoko Fujii's long-standing trio (with bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Jim Black), with the addition of her husband and longtime musical partner Natsuki Tamura on trumpet. Recorded live on July 28, 2004, this set is slightly disappointing. First of all, after six studio albums, the trio was due for a live recording, so fans might not agree with Tamura's presence, especially since the only track he sits out is "Illusion Suite," a piece still too fresh to have matured into something significantly different -- in fact, Tamura's input would have been much welcome on that rather weak and overlong composition. However, fans of Tamura might feel frustrated by the fact that with its 36 minutes, "Illusion Suite" accounts for half of the album, which means that the trumpeter is only featured on the other half. That being said, if the title suite from the group's previous disc offers little new, the renditions of "Ninepin" (now Fujii's most recorded piece) and "Looking Out of the Window" (an oldie from the group's debut album) are worth the price of admission. They are reinvented almost from the ground up, with Tamura enriching the group's palette. The same applies to "An Insane Scheme," also first released on the album Illusion Suite, but here featuring Tamura inspiring Fujii, Dresser, and Black to approach the tune more freely and drive it elsewhere. There is clearly a redundancy factor between this album and Illusion Suite, so casual listeners might want to choose only one of them and explore the rest of the group's discography.

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