Satoko Fujii Quartet | Zephyros | Not Two Records

Not Two, 2003 | MW 752-2 | CD

Satoko Fujii – piano | Natsuki Tamura – trumpet | Takeharu Hayakawa – bass | Tatsuya Yoshida – canopus drums, voice

Recorded on September 17, 2003 by Katsumi Shigeta at Epicurus Studio, Tokyo, Japan. Assistant engineer: Jun Ichino. Mastered on September 18, 2003 by Wataru Ishii at Onkio Haus, Tokyo, Japan. Piano tuner: Masahito Asari. Cover designer: Motonobu Furuhata.

Tracklist: 1. As Usual [07:24] 2. Flying To The South [06:49] 3. First Tango [08:36] 4. One Summer Day [05:24] 5. The Future Of The Past [11:58] 6. Clear Sky (for Christopher) [05:49] 7. 15 Minutes To Get To The Station [08:48]

Satoko Fujii | Photo by Toru Sasaki

Satoko Fujii

continues to amaze with her florid and expansive explorations of soundcolour. Despite releasing 18 albums since the mid-90’s, and though active in both the USA and her native Japan, she remains very much a minority enthusiasm. Classocally trained, with stints at bot Berklee and the New England Conservatory, she took jazz lessons with Fumio Itabashi, who has worked with Ray Anderson and Elvin Jones, and she’s benefitted hugely from a longstanding association with trumpeter Natsuki Tamura. He’s part of the quartet here, along with electric bassist Takeharu Hayakawa and Ruins percussionist Tatsuya Yoshida. Reminiscent in place of British-Japanese pianist Akemi
Kuniyoshi-Kuhn, Fujii weaves repetitive, songlike lines over rhythmic ostinati that combine Western and Asian harmonies and rhythms. “Flying To The South” is typical of her stop/start approach to melody. To some extent, Tamura is surplus to requirements here. The real action lies with the piano, drums and that strangely growling bass. Zephyros isn’t her best work to date but it’s up to Satoko’s challenging standards. — Brian Morton (The Wire)

Satoko Fujii | Photo by Toru Sasaki

“I felt stunned when I experienced the absolute lyricism that seems to carry an influence of Debussy and Schoenberg.” ― Tachibana, CD Journal

“Her crashing entrance shows why she gets compared to Cecil Taylor . . . trumpeter Natsuki Tamura prefers to wax lyrical even when surrounded by chaos―which gives this music a touching voice on top of the finely drawn manga violence of Fujii’s piano. A MINUS” ― Tom Hull, Village Voice

“This the third amazing release from the ever incredible pianist, composer and multi-bandleader Satoko Fujii with her husband and ace trumpeter Natsuki Tamura… Satoko appears to have worked long and hard on the material here, as each piece features layers on complex arrangements, as well as tight ensemble playing… Once more Satoko Fujii’s outstanding quartet delivers!” ― Downtown Music Gallery (NYC)

“Fujii’s piano is stellar as always, by turns fluid, rhythmic, and totally wigged out. Throughout, the musicians give a wonderful sense of playing together wile doing their own thing within Fujii’s inventive compositions.” ― Jon Davis, Exposé

“Her vision seems indebted not only to the chamber-jazz of ECM and jazz-rock but also to European art music. As a writer, Fujii is both a confident and distinctly individualistic stylist. As a player she combines muscularity and rigor with and unusual delicacy. Another strong release from a growing talent.” ― Duncan Heining, Jazzwise

“Satoko Fujii continues to amaze with her florid and expansive explorations of sound colour… it’s well up to Satoko’s challenging standard.” ― Brian Morton, The Wire

“The pianist along with her quartet explores the intersection of probing free jazz and boisterous rock energy.” ― Michael Rosenstein, Cadence

“An appreciation of Fujii’s sound requires a suspension of expectations. Her compositions are true originals, beholden to no one individual style… her playing ranges from delicate and subdued to supremely agitated, from classically nuanced to belligerently percussive, often in the same song… There’s no one out there to compare to Satoko Fujii. A true original, at her best on Zephyros.” ― Dan McClenaghan, All About Jazz.

“My first real acquaintance last year with the music of Fujii and her various collaborators was a truly memorable experience which left me somewhat stunned, especially the work of the quartet. Here was a totally visceral sound that successfully merged a strong jazz sensibility with energies firmly rooted in rock. And this new release presents more of a similar nature, a superb example of composition and improvisation complementing each other.” ― Paul Donnelly, ejazzNews

“At one stage there were a lot of sensual atonal musical exchanges in the crystal-clear space. On another occasion there is a lot of howling of die-hard rock and cheerful rondos. Their impressive metamorphosis and sophisticated sensitivity to musical styles that belong to nowhere are the real essentials of this album… there are no fragments in any parts of this music that will tell you what is going to happen in the next moment. Have we ever felt as pleasant as to see such a colorful sonic space?” ― Tatsuya Nagato, Jazz Life


Satoko Fujii Quartet | from the left: Takeharu Hayakawa, Tatsuya Yoshida, Natsuki Tamura, Satoko Fujii | Photo by Toru Sasaki

“The sound masterfully crafted by Fujii’s group forges music while it is squeaking, twisting around and screaming. The musicians are jumping and running like springs. And they still seem to retain their energy to jump. Wow!” ― Kazutomi Aoki, CD Journal

“A masterful pianist who splits her time between Japan and New York, Julliard-trained Fujii and her quartet challenge and soothe, excite and incite.” ― Mark E. Gallo, jazzreview.com

“The quartet does a remarkable job of carving out three-dimensional space on Fujii’s compositions, which are really dramatic song-poems or symphonies written in miniature and played with the heft of a hardcore punk-rock band. Think Cecil Taylor meets Rage Against the Machine.”― Seth Rogovoy, Berkshire Eagle

“Satoko Fujii has the capability of making music in several different contexts and breathing life into each one of them… Whatever form the music may take, whatever directions it may break into, at the end it all coalesces into a cogent whole. And that is something worth listening to.” ― Jerry D’Souza, All About Jazz

“The Satoko Fujii Quartet makes full use of their characteristic musical density and speediness. Satoko Fujii’s powerful left hand, Takeharu Hayakawa’s fat, distorted and rolling electric bass sound, busy but extremely solid drumming of Tatsuya Yoshida and Tamura Natsuki’s trumpet conveying linear power and lyricism altogether pump out impending groove which is maximized by the slick and radical mixing technique incorporating compression and reverberation.” ― Koji Murai, Swing Journal

“Swirling with unbridled energy, Satoko Fujii’s quartet forges ahead with creative improvised music that swings. Jazz has to grow. Hers is an ensemble of forward-looking artists who assure us that it will… a top ten winner in this third release from Fujii’s remarkable quartet.” ― Jim Santella, All About Jazz

“Fujii is unquestionably Japan’s flagship free-jazz composer-pianist. Her thematic and conceptual approach mirrors Cecil Taylor and the daring experiments carried out by a fledgling Weather Report. She and her group grab us by the collar with her arresting compositions…” ― John Stevenson, ejazznews.com

Satoko Fujii | Photo by Toru Sasaki

“The Satoko Fujii Quartet proves that Zephyros, Greek mythology’s god of the west wind, still blows exceedingly hard… This is a band of immense technical prowess and their musical chops do everything to enhance emotional perceptions… One can’t help but be swept away in the wake by this quartet’s musicality.” Laurence Svirchev ― Exclaim! Canada’s Music Authority

“The “innovations” of The Bad Plus got a lot of people’s attention last year but, actually, artists like Satoko Fujii have been putting a hard-rock punch in their sound a bit longer. The New England-trained, Japanese pianist’s latest quartet set combines her tough avant-jazz concepts with powerhouse dynamics… remarkably engaging.” ― S. D. Feeney, Face

“Some of the most ripping performances and compositional acrobats… Awesome! I can wholeheartedly recommend Fujii’s music.” ― Jerry Kranitz, Aural-Innovations

“[The] Satoko Fujii Quartet’s Zephyros begs the opinion that Japanese contemporary jazz deserves our immediate attention.” ― Selwyn Harris, Jazzwise

“Zephyros is an enchanting surreal adventure… Satoko Fujii has a winner with this release, her quartet is at its best, and each performance sparkles with creativity.” ― Lee Prosser, jazzreview.com

“Their music sounds heroic, exciting and surprisingly exquisite. Oh, man, where does their endless creativity come from?” ― Fumiaki Fujimoto, Swing Journal

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