Satoko Fujii New Trio | Spring Storm | Libra Records

libra records 203-034

Satoko Fujii – piano | Todd Nicholson – bass | Takashi Itani – drums percussion

Recorded on March 1, 2013 by Kazuhiko Misumi assisted by Kolsuya Otaki at Pastral Sound Tokyo, Japan. Mixed March 5, 2013 by Kazuhico Misumi at Ton Master, Tokyo, Japan. Mastered on March 7, 2013 by Mike Marciano at System Two, New York City, USA. Executive producer: Natsuki Tamura. Design: Masako Tanaka.

Tracklist: 1. Spring Storm [10:40] 2. Covection [10:09] 3. Fuki [8/59] 4. Whirlwind [4:55] 5. Maebure [14:00] 6. Tremble [3:35]

Satoko Fujii New Trio | Spring Storm | libra records

We had our first concert, playing all new compositions in July 2012, and the second one in October. We were supposed to have one more concert right before this recording, but I had to cancel it because I got the flu. Thankfully I recovered quickly and could have this recording. All pieces are new born and not worn out at all. This is the real new born sound that I myself cannot even predict how this project will be. — Satoko Fujii | March 1, 2013

Some of jazz’s finest

most innovative and adventurous music can be found in the piano trio format. The list of artists pushing the boundaries is a long one: Vijay Iyer; Hal Galper; Craig Taborn; Brad Mehldau and a good dozen more, conservatively. A name rarely mentioned in that group—in part, because she leads so many groups with different configurations (23, at last count), yet hasn’t offered up a piano trio set since 2008—is Japanese-born pianist/bandleader Satoko Fujii.

In addition to her prolific output with various ensembles, Fujii has seven piano trio sets with bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Jim Black to her name, including Trace a River (Libra Records, 2008). A mercurial artist, the pianist’s work with Black and Dresser shifts from gorgeous reveries and explosive calamities to dervish-like interludes of raucous sonic assaults, often in the same tune—a mode of operation guaranteed to keep the experience exciting.

Now she has a “New Trio,” joining forces with bassist Todd Nicholson and drummer Takashi Itani for Spring Storm.

The title tune opens with a gentle rumination that builds in gradual fashion in the direction of a tempest, some of Fujii’s most beautiful playing on record. Then, like a sudden cloudburst, she explodes, cold raindrops dashing the rooftops, setting the glass wind chimes into sudden song before the storm tapers down, single drops ringing in the gradual cessation of the squall.

“Convection” gives off a furtive vibe, opening with Nicholson’s stealthy bass solo that is soon joined by Fujii’s tight, rapid-fire notes alongside Itani’s variety of percussions—shakes. rattles and scufflings that sound like the works of a covert operation, with interplay as intricate and compelling as any to be heard from any piano trio out there.

“Fuki” opens up with a burst of Fujii’s exquisite intensity, explosions of notes accompanied by the steadfast but malleable bass and a stream of unpredictable percussion—some subtle, some rumbling and riotous. At fourteen minutes the disc’s longest cut, “Maebure” opens with an eerily bowed bass, accompanied by Fujii’s spare notes, creating an ominous atmosphere. Five minutes in—in true Fujii fashion—the band clicks into a sudden gear shift, signaled by a cluster of piano notes and a rapid, heartbeat of bass and drums, that then slides into a bass fibrillation.

Since her 1995 recording debut, Something About Water (Libra Records)—a duo outing with pianist Paul Bley—Fujii has produced a stunningly large discography of about sixty albums. It is tempting to say the very focused, often gorgeous and always thought-provoking Spring Storm—with its delicacy versus strength dynamic, and melodic beauty beside the articulate and challenging interplay—is her best work to date. — DAN MCCLENAGHAN

目をみはる藤井郷子のピアニストとしての新鮮な熟成ぶり

冒頭の「スプリング・ストーム」の序章ともいうべきピアノのソロが始まってすぐ、藤井郷子のピアニストとしての新鮮な熟成ぶりに目をみはることになった。彼女がこの20年近い歳月の活動の中で吹き込んできたソロや、田村夏樹をはじめとするさまざまな演奏家とのデュエットの印象が強かったせいもあるが、”まど”や”ガトー・リブレ”などのユニット、あるいはオーケストラ活動に私自身も目を奪われていたことがあり、その結果もう何年も前に彼女がマーク・ドレッサー、ジム・ブラックの3者で演奏してつくった『Trace a River』や『Illusion Suite』などの隠れた秀演が記憶の底に沈みつつあったことには、さすがにちょっとばかり愕然とした。しかしそのトリオ作品と較べても、この1作は3者の演奏展開における神経こまやかな音づくりといい、スムースな交感が生む詩的な行間の美といい、多くの点でそれらをむしろ超えさえして注目を払うべきトリオ演奏と聴いた。

この評を書いている4月10日の時点で、藤井郷子は確かベルリン界隈に滞在しているはず。ジャケットに日本語がどこにも見当たらないため、この1作はてっきりドイツから送ってきたものだろうと早合点した。実際は3月に東京で吹き込んだ1作で、吹込後まもなく田村=藤井夫妻はドイツへ旅立ったものと分かった。直前のメールには4月12日からの3日間、ハノーヴァー近くのビーレフェルドという町で催されるフェスティヴァルに参加するとあった。彼女はこの催しのキュレーターに指名されたのだ。日本より海外で彼女がかくも高い評価を得ているのは我がことのように嬉しくもある一方で、日本でなぜもっと正当な評価を得られないのかと思うと複雑な気分だ。そのことについては別の機会に譲ることにしよう。

タイトルには藤井郷子のニュー・トリオと謳っていることから判断して、帰国後は機会を得てこのトリオの活動にも着手するということだろう。

ベースのトッド・ニコルソンは過去に藤井郷子と吹込での共演歴はないと思うので、どんな経緯があって彼女とトリオを組むことになったのかは知らないし、私自身も彼の演奏を生で聴いたことがない。ただ、ヴァイオリンの太田恵資や箏の八木美知依と共演している仲なので、日本のミュージシャンとは気心が通じ合っているらしく、それはこの1作からも充分に分かる。あたかも手の内を知り抜いているかのような、どこにも違和感のない対応ぶりなのだ。

ドラマーの井谷亨志はこの1作で初めて聴いた。第一印象は感覚が柔らかいのと詩的なアプローチが打楽器演奏で可能なことを示したこと。この点ではすぐに故・富樫雅彦を思い浮かべた。藤井郷子が従来にない柔和なタッチや変化に富んだイマジネイティヴな奏法を展開している裏には、井谷の想像力豊かなパーカッション表現術の存在が大きいのではないかと思う。

ニコルソンの演奏が瞑想的になったりポエジーを生んでいることにも井谷のプレイによる刺激が影響しているように見える。公式ホームページを開くと、パーカーと演奏するマックス・ローチを聴いてドラム演奏を志望し、やがて民族音楽を通してさまざまなパーカッションを知ったことで既存のカテゴリーや表現にとらわれない独特の方向性を見出した、とある。それは谷川俊太郎や吉増剛造や遠藤ミチロウといった共演の顔ぶれからも分かる。ごく最近に発表した初のソロCDを聴いてみたいものだ。

M1「スプリング・ストーム」(春の嵐)に始まり、M2「コンヴェクション」(対流)、M3「ふき」(吹き、または噴きか)、M4「ワールウィンド」(つむじ風)M5「前触れ」、M6「トレンブル」(大地の震動)という曲名(すべて藤井郷子のオリジナル)と、変化に富んでダイナミック・レンジも決して狭くはないここでの演奏は、3者の柔らかな感性による交感と詩的な表現性によって時に絵画的であったり、ときには舞踏や演劇風であったりと示唆に富み、奥が深い。

かくもイマジネイティヴで絵のような大自然の動きを表現したトータル・フリー・インプロヴィゼーションは久し振りに聴いた。いつになくテーマも演奏の構造も鮮明にアピールする。いつもの多様なフォームや自由なパーソナリティ以上に、多彩で絵画的な表現性が耳を捉えてやまない。たとえば、つむじ風のように気まぐれな旋風を思わせる動きのテーマ(M1)、陽炎が揺らめくような動きのパーカッション(M5)、大地の揺れの到来を予感させるピアノのシングル・ノートとベースの弦を弾く音、そしてシンバルの音。

また、M3での藤井のアグレッシヴかつダイナミックなソロや、M5でのニコルソンの練逹のアルコ奏法、臨機応変に風景や自然の変化を詩的な感性で描き出す井谷のパーカッション術など、トリオの個々のプレイにも味わい深い聴きどころが少なくなかった。

ちなみに、このトリオは4月の半ばごろにヨーロッパで演奏するという。藤井は彼の地で2人と合流するのだろう。帰国後のトリオの演奏が今から楽しみでならない。〔悠 雅彦/2013年4月10日記)

Oui, un nouveau trio, japonais, composé de Satoko Fujii

au piano, Todd Nicholson à la contrebasse et Takashi Itani à la batterie. Musicalement, nous sommes quelque part entre l’énergie du Quartet et le côté plus jazzé du Trio, avec aussi un quelque chose de plus évanescent. Six nouvelles compositions aux thèmes bien campés, reliés par des arrangements laissant place à l’inattendu. Le jeu d’Itani est vif et démultiplié (rappellant en ce sens Yoshida Tatsuya). Pour tout dire, c’est un peu d’inconnu dans beaucoup de connu, parce que nouveau ou pas, ce trio est parfaitement à l’image de Satoko Fujii. — Monsieur Délire

Yes, a new trio, based in Japan, and featuring Satoko Fujii

on piano, Todd Nicholson on bass, and Takashi Itani on drums. Musically, we’re somewhere between the drive of the Fujii’s Quartet and the jazzier feel of her Trio, with also something more evanescent. Six new compositions with strongly established themes tied together by arrangements that leave room for surprises. Itani’s playing is vivid and octopusian (and reminiscent of Yoshida Tatsuya). To tell you the truth, Spring Storm is a little bit of unknown surrounded by a lot of known, for, new or not, this trio is 100% Satoko Fujii. — Monsieur Délire

One thing about Satoko Fujii

pianist, composer, avant bandleader. She will not be pinned down. You cannot predict what she will do from one project to the next. And that I admire. This is true of her “New Trio” and their inaugural Spring Storm (Libra 203-034). Satoko is on piano, Todd Nicholson on contrabass and Takashi Itani is the drummer.

Now what is interesting as ever with Ms. Fujii is that the trio is fully into the interactive piano trio zone with all three making this an intertwined musical statement. The second noteworthy part of this is how free tumultuous barrages alternate with open avant lyricism and pushing pulsation, often in the same number. Nicholson and Itani have much to offer and they come through in ways that further stimulate Ms. Fujii to dig in a little deeper, as it should be in this sort of outfit.

It is excellent Fujii, excellent piano trio new music-jazz, and it reminds you how important she is. Nobody quite has her outlook and she realizes it with style, grace, and fire! Listen to this one! — Grego Gapplegate

Satoko Fujii New Trio | Spring Storm | libra records

 

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One thought on “Satoko Fujii New Trio | Spring Storm | Libra Records

  1. Back at the start of her career, Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii’s reputation was considerably enhanced by her stellar trio with bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Jim Black. Together they waxed seven discs, with the last Trace A River (Libra) in 2008. Since then, the traditional piano trio hasn’t appeared in her prodigious output, until the New Trio debuted here on Spring Storm. While perhaps not as virtuosic as their predecessors, bassist Todd Nicholson and drummer Takashi Itani bring open minds and singular personalities to the bandstand. Fujii’s expansive writing presents lots of opportunities for both men.

    Equally through her execution as well as her idiosyncratic charts, Fujii defies being pigeon-holed by genre, adopting a range of approaches which draw on jazz, rock and contemporary classical in a deeply personal post-modern mix. But whatever the inspiration, she always remains determinedly expressive, unafraid of either wild dissonance or the honeyed phrase. As her conception so often revolves around insistent piano figures, bass and drums are given dispensation to become more conversational (Nicholson) and to generate momentum by playing around the beat (Itani). Indeed Nicholson excels as a melodic as much as a rhythmic voice, providing a flexible bottom end, while Itani adds an element of unruly unpredictability, most obvious in “Convection” where he resolutely avoids meshing with the pianist’s syncopated rush.

    It’s only on the puckish “Whirlwind” that the head-solos-head format holds sway. Elsewhere Fujii plots multi-faceted courses. In the title track, all three seem as if they are chafing at the boundaries of the meditative rubato opening before exploding into a typically surging line which begets one of the leader’s strong outings. On “Fuki” it sounds as if the structure has been set but not the content, as skittering trio sections alternate with Nicholson’s unaccompanied bass, before parting to allow a thunderous piano excursion which involves forays under the bonnet as well as ferocious two-handed pummelling. “Maebure” also heavily features the bassist, as his speech-like arco swoops and wavers around rattling percussion and slow piano ripples, before another gear change into a choppy riff, a wild piano passage and a solo of tumbling polyrhythms by Itani. Already it feels as if the New Trio has carved out a distinctive niche, and it will be fascinating to follow their progress.

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