Satoko Fujii


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Satoko Fujii's Nagoya edition of her creative big band is very different than versions headlined by musicians in Tokyo, Kobe, and New York City. She does not play piano and uses no surrogate, employs younger musicians including electric guitarist Yasuhiro Usui, and embraces a stance that is closer to the post-Jimi Hendrix Gil Evans Orchestra. Rock & roll is definitely a big element, as well as horns that shout out for attention, while the dynamic content can be even more unleashed. Trumpeter Natsuki Tamura also seems to have a firmer musical role, as Fujii only conducts the 15-piece band through original material contributed by the aforementioned musicians. Usui contributes pieces with a heavy metal facade as on "Kondo Star," but a tambourine and mbira introduction suggests African tribal music, then morphs into light chant vocals and Tai-chi movements before entering into a frenzied area fired up by Hisamine Kondo's amazing power and glory drumming. The guitarist's other piece, "Eaves," runs themes in 4/4 and 5/4 time via fluid and slinky melodies to fast free bop pacings setting off Tamura and the four-piece trumpet section, while Tamura's powerhouse composition "Gogaku" rams the rock bass drum beat and smokin' guitar sound into a brick wall, an unexpected twist for Fujii's fans. "Blueprint" is a juggernaut of a hard rock big-band tune further emphasizing this merging approach in Fujii's repertoire, a very precise chart where spiky, fiery horn lines are snuffed out by ghostly group vocals. The slow building volume and momentum of "Sankaku" turns nightmarish, then goes skulking in detective movie music mode, eventually stomping down the bad guys. Short horn choruses shifting back and forth between bass and drums during "Shogetu" and some impressive solos really identify the late period Gil Evans influence, as rock and jazz languages battle for supremacy. Then there's the title track, again in a cinematic style, foreboding yet wide-eyed. As much as the orchestra has become Fujii's main instrument for expressing her expanded viewpoint, Sanrei is yet another energetic example of her wellspring of ideas far removed from convention, and not nearly at the tipping point of her incredible originality.

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