Junk Box | Fragment | Libra Records

libra records 203-013

Natsuki Tamura – trumpet | Satoko Fujii – piano | John Hollenbeck – percussion

Recorded by Jamie Saft, NYC on March 17, 2004 and mixed on December 1, 2004. Mastered by Scott Hull at Hit Factory, NYC on February 16, 2005. Executive producer: Natsuki Tamura. Design: Masako Tanaka. Artwork: Ichiji Tamura

Tracklist: 1. a dream in the dawn [2:30] 2. ants are crossing the highway [7:43] 3. getting lost on snowy day [6:37] 4. at intersection, on a rainy day [5:06] 5. looking out of the window [9:11] 6. your neighbors [4:45] 7. work cooking [4:40] 8. tin can godzilla [3:17] 9. cat’s nap [4:57] 10. lullaby [4:11]

Junk Box | Fragment | libra records

JJA 2006 Top 10 ― Jerry D’Souza

CODA Top Ten of 2006 ― Bill Barton

CD Journal 2006: Best 5 CDs ― Manabu Yuasa

Fujii pounds out thick piano chords, while sidekick Natsuki Tamura’s surly trumpet adds tension and growl, and drummer John Hollenbeck referees. ― Tom Hull, The Village Voice

Junk Box here essays a collection of cutting-edge Free Jazz pieces, filtered through the decidedly Japanese sounding aesthetic of Fujii who penned all the pieces… I found Fragment to be a satisfying album… that holds up well with repeated listening. ― David Kane, Cadence

Fujii is an aggressively percussive, frequently explosive pianist. The sheer power of her attack is one of the more surprising aspects of this music. Tamura’s approach is well-suited to it – a tough, lashing and declamatory style.… a sense of bristling energy demanding release is never far away. ― Julian Cowley, The Wire

Japan’s top husband-and-wife avant-jazz partnership has teamed up with drummer Hollenbeck to form a new trio devoted to the art of “com-impro,” or composed improvisation. Taking pianist Fujii’s partially arranged themes as the springboard for wildly inventive extemporisations, this album bursts with ideas – touching on cerebral, Braxton-esque pseudo classicism; boisterous, AACM-style free-jazz; scenic improv atmospherics; and even the humorous, post-modern genre-bending of Hollenbeck’s Claudia Quintet. Fujii’s left hand is the driving force… Cool and clever. ― Daniel Spicer, Jazzwise

Junk Box | Fragment | libra records

Natsuki Tamura | Photo by Toru Sasaki

Junk Box is an experimental trio. The freeform music made with this unusual instrumental combination ranges from colorfully sensitive to nervously edgy, simultaneously exclamatory and searching… the music is fresh and well performed. Fragment contains some of Hollenbeck’s best playing in a free context, making this Japanese import worth seeking out. ― Martin Patmos, Modern Drummer

This recording never ages. Fujii has found a veritable fountain of youth… Fujii and her trio take on the world and release impressions that can be interpreted any way you like. The program comes with many pleasant surprises and calls for repeated listening. Fragment comes highly recommended. ― Jim Santella, All About Jazz

Truly, this is one of the world’s most interesting piano trios. ― Kazue Yokoi, Improvised Music (Japan)

Fragment interprets everyday images and experiences with keen awareness and humor. ― Virginia A. Schaefer, All About Jazz

There is interplay filled with immediacy and sense of humor. I’m afraid to say this after all these years, but she is one of the best descendants of the Chicago avant-garde of the 70s. This is true jazz filled with dreams and hopes. ― Shiro Matsuo, Music Magazine

They utilize special effects created with their instruments and put in a lot of sense of humor. Some tunes appear to be toy boxes, but their contents will turn out to be bombs! ― Mark Rappaport, Music Magazine (Japan)

It must be a daunting job to be the third wheel in a trio with the likes of Satoko Fujii and Natsuki Tamura. Percussionist John Hollenbeck rises to it, though… Fujii’s prepared piano and Hollenbeck and Tamura’s quiet extended technique become an organic whole, sounding oddly electronic at times although the group is billed as being acoustic only… Hollenbeck, too, is an imaginative and subtle composer. He doesn’t try to stand out, at times disappearing altogether to allow Fujii’s compositions to show through. And they do. Fragment is yet another set of strong pieces well-played by the startlingly prolific pianist. ― Kurt Gottschalk, All About Jazz, New York

Junk Box | Fragment | libra records

Satoko Fujii | Photo by Toru Sasaki

She stirs up everyday images rather than indulge in highbrow expression or soupy emotion…visual fragments guide the listeners into the stories buried at the bottom of memories. ― CD Journal (Japan)

Fujii’s diverse, open-ended compositions veer from AACM-inspired textural explorations to violent, free rhythmic exchanges, making Fragment full of surprises… Satoko Fujii, who typically traffics in dark, stark impressionism, varies her compositional style here, alternating agitated and vivacious pieces with probing, introspective fare. Stepping beyond her notable skills as an arranger, Fragment shines extra light on her singular skills as an improviser in this intimate and rewarding setting. ― Troy Collins, All About Jazz

Now settle down for the sound of surprise. As always, with the Fujii/Tamura teaming, suspended expectations are a must… Trumpeter Tamura is, well, himself ― which means you’ll never know what’s coming next… Fujii is also predictably unpredictable, gentle and pensive one second, frantic and fractured the next, while Hollenbeck slips his multi-hued percussion into the mix with a remarkable finesse. Fragment moves the Fujii/Tamura vision ahead another step. ― Dan McClenaghan, All About Jazz

Another Satoko Fujii album – she’s working at a rate that rivals Vandermark or Braxton in the ’70s. Nothing lets up even when they slow down. ― Tom Hull, TomHull.com

Junk Box was new to us but its members are familiar on the free jazz scene. (All) are well-known avant garde musicians and they gel well as a trio… Fujii wrote all of the music and leaves enough air to allow each musician’s thoughts to surface. Overall, we found this session to be more than just free improvisation; it made sense. ― D. Oscar Groomes, O’s Place

On Fragment, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura entangles an organic sound with trickery and creativity, without any noticeable use of electronics… Tamura abets pianist Satoko Fujii’s newly fashioned “com-impro” concept: composed improvisation. And with percussionist John Hollenbeck injecting radiance, timbre and crunching backbeats, the trio revels within semi-structural components… Invention accelerates at full-throttle speed on Fragment… Required listening. ― Glenn Astarita, All About Jazz

Junk Box | Fragment | libra records

John Hollenbeck | Photo by Cees Van Den Veen

Junk Box | Fragment | libra records

 

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3 thoughts on “Junk Box | Fragment | Libra Records

  1. It must be a daunting job to be the third wheel in a trio with the likes of Satoko Fujii and Natsuki Tamura. The husband-wife piano and trumpet duo are remarkably active. Both are inventive composers leading numerous bands with diverse approaches and each is often in the other’s groups. They’ve got a commonality it would seemingly be hard to step in on.

    Percussionist John Hollenbeck rises to it, though, and the couple has smarts enough to let the trio be a group. The result is not a one-off meeting and it’s not the unfinished effort the title Fragment might suggest. Rather, it’s a strong album by a group that deserves to outlast the ships-in-the-night nature of many improvising ensembles.

    The ten compositions are all Fujii’s and build nicely across the disc. The first two tracks feature Fujii’s piano stating themes against squeezed trumpet and buoyant drums. But then, surprisingly, they delve into deeper territory. Fujii’s prepared piano and Hollenbeck and Tamura’s quiet extended technique become an organic whole, sounding oddly electronic at times although the group is billed as being acoustic-only.

    What makes what might otherwise have been an unbalanced trio work is that Hollenbeck, too, is an imaginative and subtle composer. He doesn’t try to stand out, at times disappearing altogether to allow Fujii’s compositions to show through. And they do. Fragment is yet another set of strong pieces well-played by the startlingly prolific pianist.

  2. When three creative musicians get together to think outside the box, anything can happen. Pianist Satoko Fujii calls her new trio Junk Box because of the spontaneous aspect of its performance. Part composition and part collective improvisation, her musical pieces are written out in graphic form instead of the usual notation. Composed improvisation means that direction is given, but the artists have plenty of freedom to make spur-of-the-moment choices, which places their goals squarely in the center of jazz’s definition.

    Avant-garde music such as Fujii’s carries distinct impressions. We, the listeners, have the freedom to interpret it as we like. As with the musicians who will always present a different “reading of the program every time out, we have the freedom to view the musical impressions differently with each listen. Thus, this recording never ages. Fujii has found a veritable fountain of youth.

    When trumpeter Natsuki Tamura introduces kissing sounds to “At Intersection, on a Rainy Day, he implies a relaxed position. Tension builds, as the rainy day in traffic becomes weary. Your Neighbors finds Tamura imitating an emergency vehicle. Or is it? Percussionist John Hollenbeck adds a serious snare drum call to the neighborhood, just as Fujii has some fun with excerpts from “Für Elise, “Shadow of Your Smile and Mendelssohn’s traditional “Wedding March. Each of the three has plenty of fun with an infusion of outside ideas into this piece as they build to a groove and heighten the emotional level extensively. Those are some neighbors!

    On another piece, Hollenbeck provides impressions of food cooking. In another piece, Fujii creates the scurrying image of ants doing their thing in an extended line. “Tin Can Godzilla ushers in a new spate of power from piano and drums that leads to Tamura’s melodic trumpet calls.

    Fujii and her trio take on the world and release impressions that can be interpreted any way you like. The program comes with many pleasant surprises and calls for repeated listening. Both accessible—containing a few rhythmic grooves—and challenging the listener with deep material that requires sorting, Fragment comes highly recommended.

  3. A bird chirps a tentative melody over the gentle percussion of plinking raindrops in the beginning of the opening cut on Fragment, “A Dream in the Dawn.” Trumpeter Natsuki Tamura supplies the avian input; Satoko Fujii’s piano is the rain. Now settle down for the sound of surprise.

    Junk Box is Satoko Fujii’s new trio, and what she’s crafted sounds very different from her longstanding trio with drummer Jim Black and bassist Mark Dresser. As always with the Fujii/Tamura teaming, suspended expectations are a must, and a large part of that dynamic on Fragment can be credited to the inclusion of drummer John Hollenbeck. Fujii’s drummers of choice on earlier recordings in trio (Jim Black) and quartet (Tatsuya Yoshida) settings supply a much more aggressive drive. Hollenbeck, in contrast, works with a textural approach, blending like a chameleon into the surroundings, as opposed to Black’s muscular quirkiness or Yoshida’s juiced-up bombast.

    The music on Fragment is a result of what Fujii calls “Composed Improvisation,” an approach that doesn’t use traditional improvisation, but rather words and some graphic notation to direct the music-making. The result is at once familiar—to those aquainted with the Fujii/Tamura universe—and also quite novel.

    Trumpeter Tamura is, well, himelf—which means you’ll never know what’s coming next, be it bird chirps, noise reminiscent of a dentist’s drill (“Getting Lost on a Snowy Day”), or the warbling of a drunken opera diva, which evolves into a (forgive me) fluttery fart (“Your Neighbors”). Fujii is also predictably unpredictable, gentle and pensive one second, frantic and fractious the next, while Hollenbeck slips his multi-hued percussion into the mix with a remarkable finesse.

    Fragment moves the Fujii/Tamura vision ahead another step.

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