Satoko Fujii ma-do Quartet | Desert Ship | Not Two Records

Not Two, 2009 | MW 826-2 | CD

Satoko Fujii – piano | Natsuki Tamura – trumpet | Norikatsu Koreyasu – bass | Akira Horikoshi – drums

Recorded on July 9, 2009 by Rafal Drewniany in Dwór Czeczów, Kraków, Poland. Mixed and mastered by Rafal Drewniany on November 17, 2009 in DTS Studio, Kraków. Produced by Marek Winiarski. Photos by Kazuko Koreyasu. Cover design by Marek Wajda

Tracklist: 1. February ~ Locomotive ~ February [08:54] 2. Desert Ship [06:35] 3. Nile River [05:10] 4. Ripple Mark [00:06] 5. Sunset In The Desert [00:06] 6. Pluto [05:04] 7. While You Were Sleeping [07:06] 8. Capillaries [02:20] 9. Vapour Trail [09:12]

Satoko Fujii | Photo by Kazue Yokoi

“Desert Ship has a great chance of making my 2010 favorites list.” ― Dan Temmesfeld, Jazzsick.com

“Classically trained pianist Fujii and her fine trumpeter husband Natsuki Tamura deliver a bravura quartet set brimful with passion and delicate romance.” – Jazz Journal

“Pianist Satoko Fujii is both a container and a fluid, and she knows how to shake order and chaos into an elusive, life-encompassing drink.” – Larry Cosentino, Signal to Noise

“Pianist Fujii again, this time in a more intimate piano riffy, looser structured quartet setting but one that’s just as engaging, and as much aligned to a post sixties sense of anarchy…” – Short Cuts, Jazzwise Magazine

“With Desert Ship, Satoko Fujii continues to make an impression. She sophisticatedly and simply synthesizes avant-rock, folk, jazz, classical, and experimental music and melts it with her own vibrant style. Always distinctive and always exciting, Fujii’s ma-do offers another excellent opportunity to explore her work.” – Jordan Richardson, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

“Pianist Satoko Fujii’s music on Desert Ship, for the quartet ma-do, sits in a phantasmagorical realm that is located artistically somewhere between composer Gustav Holst’s Planets and film director Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey… music of epic proportions.” ― Raul d’Gama Rose, All About Jazz

“If there’s such a thing as progressive edge with a commercial side, it feels like Fujii has found that sweet spot here.” ― Chris Spector, Midwest Record

“Desert Ship is full of surprises and inventiveness… Satoko Fujii’s wide, wild wonderful world is a pretty neat place to inhabit.” ― Victor Aaron, Something Else!

“Fujii (pianist & composer) leads Japanese quartet on original avant leaning jazz pieces which go from lyrical & pastoral passages to full force gale runs. Adventurous, challenging & rewarding music.” ― Eric Leff, WRUV

“The sky’s the limit, since Fujii’s proven track record and comfort zone shines forth when piloting small ensemble to large scale orchestral undertakings. On this album, she fuses complex rhythmic motifs into largely memorable storylines, underscored with harmonious theme-building endeavors…. With Tamura’s brash and glowing lines, the band incorporates mesmeric ostinatos and thrusting opuses into the grand schema…. Fujii executes these disciplines with a cunning and stylistic edge, emanating from her extremely broad capabilities and acute vision. This 2010 engagement among other recent releases, highlight her versatility and seemingly boundless artistic propensities.” – Glenn Astarita, Ejazznews

“Satoko Fujii and her Ma-Do quartet start the year off with another of her ambitious and creative treasures.” ― Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery

“I love Satoko Fujii. I hold her as one of the great jazz pianists of our times. Desert Ship, the second album by her acoustic quartet Ma-Do (Fujii, Natsuki Tamura on trumpet, Norikatsu Koreyasu on bass, Akira Horikoshi on drums)… is largely a melodious album, sensitive though quite beat-driven at times. Nice balance between lyricism and rhythmical complexity, the two poles of Fujii’s compositional range.” ― Francois Couture, monsieurdelire, CFLX

“Satoko Fujii is definitely of the avant-garde school of jazz, but her quartet recordings―and especially the Ma-Do Quartet―are some of her most approachable sounds. Desert Ship is a good introduction to her singular world, and another excellent set for her longtime fans.” ― Dan McClenaghan, All About Jazz

“Fujii, to my ears at least, is one of today’s most fascinating pianists. She’s fearless and refuses to compromise, relentlessly giving in to the pursuit of beauty and suddenness in her arrangements and her playing. While I might stop short of saying that Fujii’s playing reflects a sort of divergence, I think it is safe to say that ma-do indeed builds to its best performances when it tosses out the rulebook and lives in the conflicted spaces.” ― Jordan Richardson, Canadian Audiophile.com

“A wide-ranging talent whose efforts vary from intimate duos to big bands, Fujii’s abilities cannot be encapsulated in one line-up, let alone a single album. Desert Ship offers a wonderful cross-section of her abilities as an improviser and, especially, as a composer.” ― Troy Collins, All About Jazz

“…characteristically fascinating, emotionally varied, richly melodic one by her pretty straight-up small combo Ma-Do…. Another triumph for this extraordinary composer.” ― Alan Young, Lucid Culture

“4 ½-stars…. Satoko Fujii. She and her band are the perfect synthesis of modern music, going beyond jazz, integrating anything from classical over folk and traditional music, with jazz, free improvisation and avant-garde, but then pushing it all over the edge. This enables her to explore composition/improvisation with a musical richness which is given to few…. The last piece’s title, “Vapor Trail” is a good descriptive of the music, which comes as a kind of soothing finale, when catharsis has been reached, a moment of acceptance, of resignation, of awe for the beauty that arises after the violence, the fire has died down, after the sun has set. Brilliant!” ― Stef Gijssels, Free Jazz

“With Desert Ship, Satoko Fujii continues to make an impression. She sophisticatedly and simply synthesizes avant-rock, folk, jazz, classical, and experimental music and melts it with her own vibrant style. Always distinctive and always exciting, Fujii’s ma-do offers another excellent opportunity to explore her work.” ―Blogcritics Music

“One of the most exciting CDs I’ve listened to this year…Another total winner for Satoko and crew, this one gets my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating of 5.0 (no other band has gotten that this year).” ― Dick Metcalf, Improvijazzation Nation

Satoko Fujii ma-do Quartet |  from the left:  Natsuki Tamura, Akira Horikoshi,  Satoko Fujii,  Norikatsu Koreyasu | Photo by Kazuko Koreyasu)

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2 thoughts on “Satoko Fujii ma-do Quartet | Desert Ship | Not Two Records

  1. Desert Ship represents the second outing by Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii’s ma-do quartet, following on from the acclaimed Heat Wave (Not Two, 2008). Like its predecessor, this well-recorded studio session presents an eclectic set of nine original compositions in a 57-minute program.

    Already with a discography numbering over 60 entries, Fujii has provided a catalog as diverse as it is prolific, ranging from solo to big band by way of everything in between. Her near-constant musical companion, trumpeter and husband Natsuki Tamura, likewise provides a willing foil in ma-do. Erring more towards the free jazz end of the spectrum than some of the pianist’s outfits, largely thanks to the flexible all acoustic rhythm section, the foursome on this record brings stellar musicianship to bear on Fujii’s idiosyncratic arrangements.

    Tamura prefigures the current trumpet whiz kids with his love of tonal distortion, making his horn sigh, weep, chuckle and growl—sometimes all within the space of a few minutes. On bass, Norikatsu Koreyasu effortlessly veers from twanging thwacks to wavering harmonics, while drummer Akira Horikoshi is as adept at timbral exploration as he is at pulsing momentum. Though the leader, Fujii highlights her accomplished piano sparingly, but she nonetheless provides the glue that holds together her almost orchestral deployment of resources.

    As ever with Fujii’s writing, it is impossible to guess the ultimate destination of her charts. Each cut is very different, allowing every band member to shine in varied settings, but within the confines of a group sound where the soloist becomes an intrinsic part of the arrangement. “Nile River” bears eloquent witness: after a stately unison of trumpet and arco bass, Koreyasu breaks away in scratchy, mewling abandon, as the rest of the ensemble continues their measured progress. Similarly, on “Sunset In The Desert,” the thunderclap of Horikoshi’s hip-hop drums provides a volatile backbone ultimately calmed by Fujii’s insistent layering of a romantic piano melody. Hidden among the switchback turns are some attractive tunes, like the tender lilting refrain of the final “Vapour Trail,” or the quiet yet forlorn majesty of the title track. The latter is only revealed in full-blown explication after passage of playful half valve effects by Tamura, channeling the ghost of Lester Bowie.

    Ma-do excels as one of the pianist’s most rewarding outlets. Their last release featured on many best-of-year lists; if there is any justice, this latest offering should repeat that achievement.

  2. On her 50th album as a leader/co-leader, prolific Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii reconvenes her newest acoustic quartet, Ma-Do, for its sophomore effort, Desert Ship. Following in the footsteps of 2008’s brilliant Heat Wave (Not Two), this vivacious studio set continues to explore the darker regions of Fujii’s oeuvre.

    More heavily notated than some of Fujii’s work, these labyrinthine compositions rely on a rigorous blend of intricate structure and unfettered freedom. Offsetting the quartet’s predilection for massed sonorities, Fujii regularly arranges them into smaller groupings, balancing density with space, endowing her dynamic compositions with introspective breathing room.

    Having developed a virtually telepathic rapport with Fujii over the years, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura (Fujii’s husband), revels in the sonic extremes proffered by these episodic pieces. From stratospheric altissimo and banshee-like howls to Milesian sobriety, he spans every range of his horn, exuding a fearless adventurousness that inspires bassist Norikatsu Koreyasu and drummer Akira Horikoshi, who share in the ensemble’s highly conversational dynamic and provide far more than mere support.

    Koreyasu and Horikoshi’s spirited interplay is both congenial and combative, ably demonstrated on the turbulent dialogue that introduces “Sunset In The Desert.” Horikoshi’s penchant for kinetic force is boundless, but is tempered by a supple touch. A sterling bassist, Koreyasu’s expressive arco abilities are especially noteworthy. Articulating bowed phrases with horn-like inflection, his instrument sings with vocalized pathos, revealed at length on “Nile River.”

    From the coruscating fury of “February-Locomotive-February” to the aleatoric impressionism of the title track, Fujii’s tunes are refreshingly unpredictable, embodying their own personalized sense of unorthodox formalism, which her sidemen navigate with impressively organic logic. The romantic musings she juxtaposes over the roiling drum and bass assault of “Sunset In The Desert” and the languid bittersweet piano refrain that underscores Koreyasu’s boisterous pizzicato solo on “Ripple Mark” are two examples of her mercurial aesthetic. Though engaging in an array of probing excursions herself—like the circuitous spree she unleashes on the fragmentary “Pluto,” or the gamelan-flavored prepared piano filigrees that haunt the dreamy “While You Were Sleeping”—Fujii refrains from monopolizing the spotlight, allowing ample solo space for her sidemen.

    Lending credence to their titles, “Capillaries” splinters in multiple directions, its two minute duration and frenzied pace the perfect contrast to the closing “Vapour Trail.” Ending the set with a respite of heartbreaking, introspective pianism, this dulcet excursion serves as the antidote to the previous barrage—a cathartic and cleansing coda.

    A wide-ranging talent whose efforts vary from intimate duos to big bands, Fujii’s abilities cannot be encapsulated in one line-up, let alone a single album. Desert Ship offers a wonderful cross-section of her abilities as an improviser and, especially, as a composer.

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