Satoko Fujii

Summer Suite

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For her fourteenth overall orchestra project, and the seventh with a New York based group, Satoko Fujii continues to compose music that fully exploits the improvised music format based in jazz but not beholden to it. Summer Suite comprises a 40-minute magnum opus filled with twists and turns, as well as two shorter pieces more composed and regulated, but still chock-full of daring moves and in your face free sections. With her established reputation now fully recognized, it's clear that she has the pick of the litter in sidemen, and has chosen some real downtown heavyweights for this project. The truly outstanding sax section of Briggan Krauss, Oscar Noriega, Ellery Eskelin, Tony Malaby, and Andy Laster is as impressive as what you might find anywhere, while the trumpet section of husband Natsuki Tamura, Herb Robertson, Dave Ballou, and Steven Bernstein is bulletproof. Trombonists Curtis Hasselbring, Joey Sellers, and Joe Fiedler round out this stunning modern creative horn section, collectively as power packed and driven as even a fantasy dream team fan might conceive. Fujii's highly developed sense of drama and discourse is extant in the title track, starting at a slow simmer, moving to various short choruses and solos interspersed by the skittering electric bass guitar of Stomu Takieshi, various solos with Takieshi and drummer Aaron Alexander, the band brought back in a funky strut, chaos, muted, somber and tick-tock timings as the dog days of August slog along. Good versus evil is perfectly re-created on "Sanrei," a lugubrious funk with the horns gasping for breath and sped up in a grand emotional contrast. Multiple mixed meters and stop-start techniques identify the extreme, quirky and intricate music played during "In the Town You Don't See on the Map," a musical eye strain composed to the max with massive solo improvisations as a coda. It is clear that Fujii's concepts and fused dialects are all hers, with minimal regard for her own personal piano inserts or the individual voicings of the musicians. Having said that, you have to be an extraordinary performer to play her idiosyncratic and beyond category brand of music, as it is some of the most demanding and technically challenging sound ever conceived. There's a place for any of her projects in your progressive jazz collection, with this one ranking very high in her expanding orchestral discography.

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