Satoko Fujii Ma-Do | Time Stands Still | Not Two Records

Not Two, 2013 | MW 897-2 | CD

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

Recorded June 22, 2011 by Joe Marciano. Mixed on October 3, 2011 by Mike Marciano, at Systems Two, New York. Mastered on October 6, 2011 by Scott Hull at Scott Hull Mastering, New York. English translation by Alan Gleason. Cover design by Malgorzata Lipinska. Cover photo by Andrzej Bero. [Ceramics installation “Cogwheels” by Andrzeij Bero] Inside photo by Myles Regan []

All compositions by Satoko Fujii – Koro music(BMI).

Tracklist: 1. Fortitude [09:30] 2. North Wind And The Sun [10:32] 3. Time Flies [06:58] 4. Rolling Around [02:55] 5. Set The Clock Back [05:21] 6. Broken Time [09:41] 7. Time Stands Still [07:31]

Satoko Fujii Ma-Do | Time Stands Still | nottwo records


is a quartet I formed in October 2007 with Natsuki Tamura, Norikatsu Koreyasu, and Akira Horikoshi. Though the format turned out to be a standard one-horn quartet, I wasn’t thinking about instrumentation when I invited these members to join me. Any time two or more people gather together, they create a “society.” What I wanted to do was make a society composed of these four individuals, I was absolutely sure that a very interesting society would arise from their particular combination of musical abilities and personalities.

In the four years of its existence, ma-do became a band that far exceeded my expectations. Every time we performed, the sounds the group produced from the charts I provided never failed to astonish me.

Performing with ma-do always stimulated and inspired me, and gave me the energy to create new compositions. To be honest, I began to wonder how we could possibly maintain such intensity in the future. As we entered the year 2011 we were doing more and more gigs: a Hokkaido tour in April, an Australian tour in early June, back to Tokyo for two nights in mid-June and then off for a North American tour, during which this recording was made in New York.

To allow room for Norikatsu to use his bow freely during the recording. we had the studio mic placed where the bow wouldn’t hit it. Joe the engineer worried that we would be unable to get a good sound with the mic at that position. But when he went back to the control room, he was amazed – he’d never heard a bassist who could make his instrument project like that, he said.

At this stage, our music seemed to be leaping to a new level with every performance. Only a few days after recording in New York, on the final day of our North American tour at the Vancouver Jazz Festival, our collective sound was more intense than ever. That September, we were exchanging frequent emails to work out the details for a European tour in November. Right up until Norikatsu’s sudden death on September 23, 2011, we were emailing each other about air tickets and itineraries. His wife was planning to come with us to Europe.

Bandmates have a strange relationship. In ma-do, we didn’t go out drinking or take excursions together. It wasn’t like hanging out with your best friends. But when we played music, we knew we were communicating on a deep level. You can’t use music to talk about specific things, but you can share something even more profound. The four of us in ma-do did plenty of touring together, but during our time off the road we got together for dinner exactly once. We never visited each others’ homes, either. But there were times when I felt closer to my bandmates than to anyone else I know.

The sounds musicians make in performance reveal everything about themselves as human beings. A single sound will tell you more about what kind of person the performer is than all the talk in the world. In his music and in his heart, Norikatsu Koreyasu was someone without a single lie in him. A musician without lies – have never met anyone else like that. Early one morning about a month after Norikatsu died, he appeared to me in a dream. He didn’t say much -just, “it was fun playing together. But I have to go now” – and then he left. When I awoke, I felt calm and at peace.

And yet I wish he had lived longer I wanted to play with him more. It s such a shame, such a waste, that this third album by ma-do has to be our last.

This music was recorded during a period when the band was reaching new heights of intensity with every day. I hope listeners will take these once-in-a-lifetime sounds to heart — SATOKO FUJII [July 19, 2012]

Satoko Fujii Ma-Do | Time Stands Still | nottwo records

Norikatsu Koreyasu | Photo by Cees Van De Ven

In terms of CD releases, pianist Satoko Fujii

passed the bandleader baton to her husband, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, in 2012, resulting in two exceptional albums on the Libra Records label: the trumpet/piano duo outing, Muku, and Forever, from Tamura’s European folk music-flavored Gato Libre group. For the always prolific Fujii, a year without a release under her leadership is an oddity. The year 2013 is lining up differently, however, with the debut of the Satoko Fujii New Trio’s Spring Storm and, now, from her Satoko Fujii Ma-Do Quartet, Time Stands Still.

This is the third and, sadly, final installment from the Ma-Do quartet. The band’s bassist, Norikatsu Koreyasu, passed away unexpectedly in late 2011, at 56 years of age. Time Stands Still, the group’s most inspired recording, is proof of how central and essential the bassist was to the ensemble’s sound.

The disc opens fittingly, with Koreyasu’s otherworldly arco solo on “Fortitude,” as the bassist makes sounds that have never been heard before—squeaks and rasps and knocks and alien life form squeals—until the rest of the band eases into the picture with music that is characteristically (at least, in Fujii’s world) unpredictable and unfailingly original, moving from steady grooves and ethereal beauty to startling bursts of high-energy, four-way interplay. Trumpeter Tamura blows, as always, with no boundaries. His notes may be straight-ahead and quite conventional, but then he shifts into flutters and dry spits, whispering or growling for a time as Fujii lays down spare, meditative notes or sudden car crashes of sound in league with Akira Horikoshi, a drummer capable of delicate subtlety and nuance, but one who can also respond with an appropriate riot of percussion when the time is right.

There’s nobody making music like Fujii. The set’s second tune, “North Wind and the Sun,” is a passionate, sometimes rollicking and rolling ten-minute symphony suffused with an off-kilter beauty that closes out with small, whispered piano notes. “Time Flies” opens with a trumpeter/drum interlude that segues into a fluid rhythm, riding the bounce of Koreyasu’s bass before moving into a jagged soundscape that wanders briefly, only to then rediscover its rubbery groove.

Satoko Fujii Ma-Do was a magnificent band, with perhaps the most cohesive interplay of all of the pianist’s groups. With the passing of Norikatsu Koreyasu it will be no more, and that’s a crying shame, but Time Stands Still stands as one of Satoko Fujii’s strongest and most riveting recordings to date. — Dan MCCLENAGHAN

Satoko Fujii Ma-Do | Time Stands Still | Not Two Records

Satoko Fujii conserve ses ensembles longtemps.

Qu’on pense à son Trio et à son orchestre new-yorkais, ou encore à son Quartet et à son orchestre japonais. Le quatuor Ma-Do aura connu quatre belles années d’existence, une existence qui se serait certainement poursuivi longtemps sans le décès soudain du contrebassiste Norikatsu Koreyasu en septembre 2011 (il jouait aussi dans le quatuor Gato Libre du trompettiste Natsuki Tamura). Ainsi, Time Stands Still, enregistré en studio en juin 2011, restera le dernier disque de Ma-Do (Fujii, Koreyasu, Tamura et le batteur Akira Horikoshi). C’est un disque presque tonitruant et, ce, dès le solo bruitiste de Koreyasu qui lance la première pièce, “Fortitude”. Il y a bien des moments plus délicats, dont la finale de la pièce-titre, mais pour l’essentiel le discours de Fujii est ici véhément. Ce groupe gagnait en ardeur avec le temps; il était en voie de remplacer son Quartet avec un grand Q. — Monsieur Délire

Satoko Fujii keeps her ensembles going for long periods of time.

Think of her New-York Trio and Orchestra, or her Tokyo Quartet and Orchestra. Ma-Do were together for four years, and the band would have carried on much longer for sure if it weren’t for the sudden death of bassist Norikatsu Koreyaso in September 2011 (he also played in trumpeter Natsuki Tamura’s Gato Libre). And so Time Stands Still, recorded in the studio in June 2011, will remain the last album by Ma-Do (Fujii, Koreyasu, Tamura, and drummer Akira Horikoshi). This final album is almost thundering, right from its first seconds, a noisy doublebass solo opening “Fortitude.” There are quieter moments, like the delicate finale of the title track, but for the most part Fujii’s compositions are vehement here. This group was gaining force with time, and it was bound to replace the Satoko Fujii Quartet as Fujii’s most energetic outfit.– Monsieur Délire

Zur aktuellen Lieblingslektüre den passenden soundtrack finden

– und darüber hinaus Anhaltspunkte und Inspirations-Schmankerl für eigene Schritte in die Welt der Freien Improvisation: das ist Glück. Seit Tagen, Wochen stöbere ich im preisgekrönten Essayband Duft der Zeit des koreanischen Philosophen Han. Eine seiner Kernthesen ist die, dass es in der heutigen Zeit an Abschlussformen fehle, die Erfüllung vermitteln. Alles schwirrt im Uferlosen herum. Erzählungen und andere Narrative wären solche Abschlüsse, ferner Rituale, Feste und, so meine ich, auch gute Songs und Musikwerke. Satoko Fujii´s Time Stands Still erklingt im Duft der Zeit. Musik, die dem, der sie nie vorher hörte, sogleich vertraut vorkommt, frisch und ungekünstelt. Immer auf der Suche nach kontrollierten Ekstasen, in denen sich zahlreiche Musikstile entfalten; wo es keine Tabus gibt; Salsa neben Freejazz stehen kann und Hardrock neben Folk, wird der Glückliche zuweilen fündig. Die schüchtern-sympathische Satoko Fujii, von Kindesbeinen an in der Klassik ausgebildet, gehört zu jenen, die alsbald ihren Ausbruch in freiere Gefilde suchten. Man hört ihrem japanisch rabiaten, aber auch warmherzigen Spiel an, dass sie alle Formen und Stile beherrscht. Da gibt es Bachsonaten neben Anklängen aus Südamerika. Auch Paul Bley, Aki Takase, Masabumi Kikuchi – sogar Joachim Kühn – kommen in den Sinn. Fujjii´s Spiel ist im positiven Sinne einfach, natürlich, und leicht nachvollziehbar. Sie gehört auch gewiß nicht zu jenen aus der Klassik Kommenden, die sich süffisant auf dem Feld des Jazzrockpop versuchen und ganz toll dabei finden, weil sie auch mal swingen dürfen. Abschließend und Augen schliessend im Sinne des Philosophen Han sei gesagt, dass die persönlichen Musikforschungen hinsichtlich dieser Pianistin, im Quartett mit MA-DO ebenso wie in ihrem Trio-Album Spring Storm, noch nicht zum Abschluss gekommen sind – die Neugierde darauf fängt soeben erst an. — Jochen Siemer

When asked why she has lead or co-lead so many different projects

(23 at last count), pianist Satoko Fujii replied “It’s like food. I don’t like just Japanese food, but also Italian food, French food and so on, and I would soon get tired if I just ate Japanese food.” If her ma-do quartet were to have a culinary equivalent it would certainly be tasty: something spicy with rich complex flavors. It’s almost as if Fujii has so many ideas that she has to force as many as possible into every composition. Each cut screeches into handbrake turns of clashing incongruity which the band somehow make sound unforced and natural.

As much about the people as the instrumentation, Fujii sees ma-do as a means to be able to rehearse such involved scores with trusted long time collaborators. Alongside husband Natsuki Tamura on trumpet are bassist Norikatsu Koreyasu, with the pianist for over two decades, and Akira Horikoshi, the drummer from her Tokyo Big Band. One of the beauties of ma-do, also apparent on their previous outings—Heat Wave (Not Two, 2008) and Desert Ship (Not Two, 2010)—resides in the near perfect balance they achieve between charted intrigue and beguiling instrumental virtuosity.

Apposite examples are everywhere. “Fortitude” opens proceedings auspiciously, as Koreyasu’s eerie slithering bowing becomes gradually submerged by a jumpy piano/drum unison, later doubled by Tamura. A subsequent episode for staccato piano turns jazzy then erupts into sweeping glissandos along the keyboard, before a strongly syncopated conclusion. As if in live performance (the studio set was recorded midway through a North American tour), the cooling piano/bass droplets which close “North Wind And The Sun” lead imperceptibly into the delicate piano reverie of the following “Time Flies.” As well as directing from the piano stool, Fujii here confirms her stature as a superlative soloist, scrabbling among the piano innards over a rocky beat, before explicating a knotty ostinato.

Although Tamura’s lines boast a lyrical core, he tempers sentimentality by co-opting unconventional sounds: subterranean growls, breathy whooshes and buzzing raspberries all play their part. In this adventure, Koreyasu matches him blow for blow, as demonstrated at the start of “Broken Time” when his swooping arco harmonics roughly intertwine with the trumpeter’s metallic burr. They also shine on the lovely title track, after a portentous drum intro, where Tamura’s teetering lullaby melody is underpinned by the bassman’s mournful sawing. That leads to a threnody for Fujii and the bassist, which slowly fades to nothing. Exquisitely beautiful, it’s hard not to see the piece as a tribute to Koreyasu who died suddenly of a heart attack aged 56, three months after this session. As such, it makes a fitting though bittersweet end to this splendid final album from ma-do. — John Sharpe

Satoko Fujii Ma-Do | Time Stands Still | Not Two Records

It somewhat bums me out to write this review because

of the two albums being discussed, one of them is the last album Satoko Fujii’s ma-do quartet will ever release. One of my earliest assignments for this website was a twofer review of Fujii’s 2010 albums. The ma-do album Desert Ship was awesome. In truth, both albums were great, but Desert Ship was just more my style. It was quartet jazz (re: chamber) that did not stick to stiff charts. Fujii’s compositions were already unusual enough, but the band had a frightening way of inhaling and exhaling the music. It was all very weird and challenging, yet nothing was artistically out of place. But the unexpected death of bassist Norikatsu Koreyasu means that two of Satoko Fujii’s projects—Gato Libre and ma-do—are now buried in the ground for good. Realizing that his sound pretty much made these bands what they are, Fujii doesn’t feel like replacing him.

But when one door slams shut, a window often opens. These two albums from Fujii represent her transition from the abandoned door to the fresh air blowing through the new open window. This time, Fujii returns to the piano trio format that put her on the international jazz map all those years ago by forming the New Trio with Todd Nicholson and Takashi Itani. A final album from ma-do is much better than none at all, and its pairing with New Trio’s Spring Storm secures a better year overall for Fujii and her husband Natsuki Tamura than last year.

What makes ma-do’s final album Time Stands Still so sad is the notion that the title represents. Fujii admits that she wanted ma-do to go on and on, to be playing with Koreyasu forever. There’s no dodging the issue when you read the song titles: “Time Flies”, “Set the Clock Back”, “Broken Time” and, of course, “Time Stands Still”. Judging from Koreyasu’s contributions to the album, it’s easy to see why Fujii had such misty-eyed wishes. In the liner notes for Gato Libre’s final album, Tamura painted a conflicted picture of Norikatsu Koreyasu. On the one hand, his personality was unpredictable and it was hard to just plan breakfast with the guy. On the other hand, he had an incredible command over his instrument and never failed to conjure his magic in a live setting. On Time Stands Still, he bows, scrapes, squawks, and gives a series of good old-fashioned Valley of the Underdog plucks on his bass, tricking the listener into thinking that a fifth member of the band must have a table of miscellaneous junk lying around. As far as Fujii’s compositions go, it’s frustrating to witness how ma-do was transcending itself at this point. If Desert Ship was excellent, there’s something about Time Stands Still that is otherworldly. Natsuki Tamura still bends the sound of his trumpet to his will, never for show and always for the music. And the greatest thing I can say about drummer Akira Horikoshi is that his solo on “Broken Time” makes it sound just like that.

For Spring Storm, the music is obviously more piano-centered than on Time Stands Still. Fujii is not new to the piano trio format. But considering just how far out she’s been branching in format in recent years, it’s easy to forget that she was once treading down the trio path. And Satoko Fujii being Satoko Fujii, she can’t do the straight-up Bill Evans thing anymore than Tim Berne can cover Kenny G. This was made clear in no uncertain terms when I borrowed Toward, to West from my local library, a trio album she did with Jim Black and Mark Dresser sometime around 2000. And though there’s nothing quite as ambitious as the 30-minute title track from that release to be found on Spring Storm, it still comes with its own set of challenges. Bassist Todd Nicholson and drummer Takashi Itani, in addition to being serious jazz musicians, are also into punk and metal. And rather than tame the sense of rage that may come along with such musical tastes, Fujii incorporates it into the New Trio sound. Nicholson and Takshi are sometimes given blank checks to go nuts, as the ten-minute title track demonstrates. They exercise restraint, however. Not everything has to get punked in the groin, like on “Convection”, a teasing piece that makes you think it’s deep and lyric one moment, then has you doing mental math in an effort to tap your foot to it.

Time Stands Still is bittersweet to hear. On the one hand, it’s tremendous. On the other hand, there will be no more like it. And given where the band was headed, it’s a shame that we will never know what ma-do’s follow-up would have sounded like. Spring Storm is not as transcendent or otherworldly, but it goes without saying that ma-do’s final album is a tough act to follow. Satoko Fujii’s New Trio has the edge and the confidence to become bigger than itself, especially if Fujii keeps writing the way that she currently is. So here’s to two of 2013’s best releases—one a sad farewell, the other an ambitious hello. — John Garratt

In the Bauhaus tradition of art

students attended classes and workshops taught by a tandem duo of “technical / crafts masters” and “form masters” — the pedagogy and “art”, respectively. One of the former, Joseph Albers (later an instructor at Black Mountain College whose students included Eva Hess, Ray Johnson and Robert Rauschenberg), the counterpart of Paul Klee, praised the need for an understanding of the basics of form; having this structure is where students “develop critical skills”. He also believed that, with a big picture knowledge in place, abstraction will follow as it “is the foundation of the human spirit”.

Clinging to actual notes on paper, there is almost a Standards-like approach to Natsuki Tamura (trumpet), Satoko Fujii (piano, band leader), Norikatsu Koreyasu (bass) and Akira Horikoshi’s (drums) Time Stands Still, but the micro-fusion, skewed layout, length of range and frayed harmonic content pushes the works much closer to In a Silent Way than Duke Ellington. To take a step back, the first work, “Fortitude”, begins in the moment when jazz soloists deviate from the chords and scales and lash out against tonality in favor of texture, Koreyasu starting with raspy harmonics, grating pulls and winding bends via bow. Fujii and Horikoshi join to ground the bassist with a steady pulse (one you have to count to figure out the meter); soon everyone comes together with the first verse, set to explode, and everyone but Tamura falls away, the trumpeter furiously blaring the head against an empty backdrop. The group rejoins and blazes for another four minutes until the return of the A section and close. And that’s how you reverse a jazz arrangement.

“North Wind and the Sun” launches with a repeated six-note motif whose cadences the group punctuates with a washing gesture (notes played together so quickly they ring like a gong). Just as they’re about to take off, the band stops to a halt to revel for a few moments in primordial scribbles (experimentalism where players squirm around to discover non-idiosyncratic potential i.e. soft mouthpiece squeaks, non-directional tinkering on snare heads). They momentarily come back to the refrain and carry on with a sort-of Latin bounce; the moment you think you’ve heard this kind of shuffling, tempo-bouncing, neo-hard-bop (i.e. Chick Corea’s Inner Space), the group tosses in clever interruptions that aren’t so much variations but stylistic anomalies (more scribbles). “Rolling Around” realizes as a tender ballad riddled with silence (the pauses and pitch choices almost recall Morton Feldman piano works), sporadic thunderous undertones and violent outbursts. After the tension bubbling throughout the album finally pops, “Broken Time” plods like a funeral dirge leading toward the Wailing Wall before Horikoshi pushes his crew with a nimble groove; this inspires Fujii into a full exploration of her keyboard and genre knowledge until the drummer takes the piece out with a well-deserved solo spotlight.

Listening to Satoko Fujii ma-do, one is reminded that blocked chunks of themes written on charts can still yield exciting, unexpected results when mixed up just enough and tweaked from within. — Dave Madden


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