Satoko Fujii Quartet

Zephyros

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The Satoko Fujii Quartet's third CD goes back to the drive, urgency, and high production values featured on the unit's debut. Continuing the string of deities-related titles, Zephyros finds Fujii and consorts sweating through seven complex, mood-schizophrenic pieces. The pianist penned all the compositions (trumpeter Natsuki Tamura had made contributions to the first two discs). Six of them are brand new, while "The Future of the Past" gets its third and most dynamic recording to date (after a first appearance on the Satoko Fujii Trio's 2001 CD Junction and a second one on the Satoko Fujii Orchestra's The Future of the Past). The group has found a new level of integration and balance, which gives the impression that the avant rock/progressive rock aspect of the music is not as overdone as before, yet energy is not sacrificed. It may just be that the group's palette has been expanded to include tango ("First Tango") and quirky fair music ("Clear Sky," a delightful trumpet melody over a meter that simply refuses to stand still), along with hard-driving avant-prog, free-form rock, free improvisation, and the wildest kind of jazz-rock you are likely to encounter. As usual, drummer Tatsuya Yoshida and bassist Takeharu Hayakawa provide a thundering rhythm section, the former thanks to his muscular, jerky playing, the latter relying on a sloppy yet highly precise electric bass sound. Fujii sticks to the piano this time, without effect, hammering chords and throwing in pyrotechnical solos that rarely get in the way of the already demanding writing. These pieces require commitment from the listener in order to size up their complex structures, an effort generously rewarded by some highly entertaining head-thrashing episodes. "15 Minutes to Get to the Station" (which, incidentally, is only nine minutes long), "As Usual," and "The Future of the Past" stand out, but the material is consistently good. The Satoko Fujii Quartet have yet to record a weak album, but Zephyros represents their best effort to date.

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