Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York | Eto | Libra Records

libra records 215-029

Oscar Noriega, Briggan Krauss – alto sax | Ellery Eskelin, Chris Speed – tenor sax – Andy Laster – baritone sax | Herb Robertson, Dave Ballou, Frank London, Natsuki Tamura – trumpet | Joey Sellers, Curtis Hasselbring, Joe Fiedler – trombone | Satoko Fujii – piano | Stomu Takeishi – bass | Aaron Alexander – drums

Recorded on October 27, 2010 and mixed on January 25, 2011 by Mike Marciano at Systems Two, NYC. Mastered by Scott Hull on February 26, 2011 at Masterdisk, NYC. Executive producer: Natsuki Tamura. Design: Masako Tanaka

Solo Players: 1. The North Wind And The Sun – Herb Robertson, Briggan Krauss, Frank London, Andy Laster, Ellery Eskelin, Natsuki Tamura | Eto Suite 2. Overture 3. Rat – Chris Speed 4. Ox –  Joey Sellers 5. Tiger –  Ellery Eskelin 6. Hare – DaveBallou 7. Dragon – Curtis Hasselbring 8. Snake – Natsuki Tamura 9. Horse – Andy Laster 10. Ram – Oscar Noriega 11. Monkey – Frank London 12. Rooster – Herb Robertson 13. Dog – Joe Fiedler 14. Boar – Briggan Kraus 15. Epilogues 16. Pressure Cooker – Joe Fiedler, Frank London 17. Stroll –  Chris Speed, Herb Robertson, Curtis Hasselbring

Tracklist: 1. The North Wind And The Sun [9:12] (Satoko Fujii) Eto Suite (Fujii) 2. Overture [2:26] 3. Rat [1:29] 4. Ox [2:43] 5. Tiger [1:39] 6. Hare [2:28] 7. Dragon [1:50] 8. Snake [2:05] 9. Horse [1:20] 10. Ram [2:13] 11. Monkey [1:17] 12. Rooster [1:47] 13. Dog [1:59] 14. Boar [2:10] 15. Epilogue [1:58] 16. Pressure Cooker [5:59] (Fujii) 17. Stroll [7:19] (Fujii)

My husband, Natsuki Tamura will turn sixty years old this year.

In Japan we have a special celebration for sixty years olds, called “Kanreki.” We use the Chinese zodiac in Japan which is called “Eto,” so 12 years is one cycle. 60 is a special number because it is 12 x 5 and 10 x 6. The duodecimal system and decimal system meet at 60. I wanted write some music for this, and read a bit about the Chinese zodiac. Each of the 12 animals in the zodiac has its own character and each character inspired me a lot, so I wrote a short piece for each of them to make one long suite. Each piece has featured solo player. — Satoko Fujii

Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York | Eto | libra records

In addition to an ever-changing array of small combos

tireless Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii continues to lead four international big bands, each based in a different city (Kobe, Nagoya, New York and Tokyo). Of the four, her New York based Orchestra is both her oldest and most prolific, having maintained virtually the same line-up since 1997. ETO, dedicated to her husband, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura on the eve of his sixtieth birthday, is the Orchestra’s eighth recording.

A milestone event by the standards of many cultures, turning sixty in Japan is honored with a symbolic rebirth celebration called “Kanreki.” Inspired by traditional Japanese use of the Chinese zodiac, the album’s titular suite comprises 14 sections; an opening and closing theme bookends 12 focused miniatures named after the animals of the Chinese zodiac, with each interlude spotlighting a different member of the band as primary soloist. The brief vignettes that encapsulate the episodic suite’s various sections embrace a dizzying stylistic range, exploiting Fujii’s skills as a composer as often as her sidemen’s interpretive prowess—frequently in unaccompanied settings. Veering between extremes, Dave Ballou’s lyrical trumpet ruminations on the Ellingtonian “Hare” offer stark contrast to Curtis Hasselbring’s vociferous muted trombone musings on the brooding “Dragon,” while Ellery Eskelin’s elliptical tenor cadences pirouette through “Tiger” with nimble restraint compared to Briggan Krauss’ bristling alto tirade on the climactic “Boar.” Tamura, the dedicatee of the extended work, contributes a commanding performance on “Snake,” unfurling coruscating glissandi that blur the line between expressive vocalisms and pure abstraction.

The remainder of the record is girded by three intricate pieces employing dynamic shifts in orchestration—providing thematic consistency with the dramatic interplay between ensemble charts and spare soliloquies that dominates “Eto Suite.” The regal opener “The North Wind And The Sun” introduces the date with a string of meditative solos punctuated by swelling tuttis, foreshadowing the vast aural spectrum explored in the album’s lengthy suite. “Pressure Cooker” and “Stroll” conclude the session in a similar fashion. The muscular riffing and locomotive rhythms of the former is bolstered by animated brass excursions from trombonist Joe Fiedler and trumpeter Frank London; the latter trades visceral intensity for austere introspection, closing the set with a sophisticated fusion of stately themes and aleatoric impressionism.

Revealing new facets on repeated listens ETO balances rousing swing with probing experimentation, updating the big band tradition with inspired verve and an abiding reverence for venerable customs. — Troy Collins

Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York | Eto | libra records

Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York | Eto | libra records

 

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