CD REVIEW: Satoko Fujii - Peace



Satoko Fujii - Peace
(Libra Records: Libra 217-039 CD review by Nick Davies)

Each new orchestral album that pianist-composer Satoko Fujii produces goes further to deepen and refine large ensemble free jazz. The album Peace is her fifth with 15-strong member Orchestra Tokyo, and her 18th as a composer for big bands.

A tribute to late guitarist Kelly Churko, the recording features special guests: drummer, Peter Orins and trumpeter, Christian Pruvost. Together they create one of the most powerful and evocative of Fujii’s big band albums.

The album consists of four tracks, entitled 2014Jasper, Peace and Beguine Nummer Eins, running to a fairly reasonable hour in its entirety. Fujii has truly defined the concept of large ensemble free jazz in both her previous and current albums.

The tune 2014 (the longest, at 32 min 45 sec) starts with Pruvost’s breathy tone on the trumpet and Orins on the drums, followed by trombonist Yasuyuki Takahashi and tenor saxophonist Masaya Kimura. The energy level of the performance suddenly surges as the drums and trumpet work together before being joined by the rest of the ensemble. The baseline beat is very funky with an improvised brass section over the top - enjoyable and, at times, thought provoking.

This format is used across the album with one of the instruments leading into and finishing the track, and the full orchestra playing in between. For example, on Jasper, soprano saxophone soloist Sachi Hayasaka improvises a haunting Middle Eastern sounding rhythm and the orchestra follows on. At this point, the orchestra is in full flow and the music transports you to another time and place. The track ends with Hayasaka’s tempo similar to that of the start. This, in my opinion, is the standout number, thanks to the different contexts contained within: one song, many themes. Fujii’s ability to transform the listener’s imagery never fails to deliver: the Middle East at one point and, later, a British concert hall!

Overall, this is an impressive album, building soundscapes for the listener. All four tracks are particularly strong; the only disappointment was that the voyage of discovery comes to an end rather too soon however, it certainly whets the appetite for the next instalment!

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