Satoko Fujii’s “Moon on the Lake”

FUJII: Hansho. Wait for the Moon to Rise. Aspiration. Keep Running. Moon on the Lake / Satoko Fujii, pno; Takashi Sugawa, bs/cel; Ittesu Takemura, dm / Libra Records 203-065

Satoko Fujii is a jazz pianist whose style can never be pinned down because she is always trying something new; and in this instance, at least in the first track on this CD scheduled for release on May 7, is almost retro for her—a return to a style of jazz redolent of the avant-garde of the late 1950s-early ‘60s.

Which is not a bad thing at all if you can pull it off, and she certainly does so here. Hansho opens with a lick that sounds as if it could have been invented by Horace Silver, but the real surprise comes in Takashi Sugawa’s very lengthy bass solo, which takes one places where one has never been. When Fujii re-enters it is to play underneath Sugawa at first, but eventually she returns to the opening theme, now with the drums behind her—then the drums take over, playing its own remarkable solo, even managing to sound, at certain moments, like Gene Krupa with the Benny Goodman band. During the snare drum press rolls, Fujii re-enters once again, this time spraying notes up and down the keyboard, tying the music into knots but, like Houdini, always managing to extricate herself. Now we’ve taken leave of Horace Silver and entered Cecil Taylor territory.

Wait for the Moon to Rise is played solo by Fujii on piano and prepared piano, a really strange ambient piece in which mood and atmosphere count more than structure and invention, although invention is also clearly present. At about the four-minute mark, Fujii begins a slow, simple melody with a gentle rocking beat, over which Sugawa enters on the cello. This almost has a classical feel to it were it not for the cymbal washes and drum “bombs” tossed in here and there by Takemura. Aspiration begins as a long, slow piano solo, again almost in a classical vein, surprisingly tonal for Fujii except for a brief atonal chord explosion at the four-minute mark. Sugawa’s cello then takes over, also a cappella, for some time, here playing in a dirge-like manner, and then Takemura on drums.

Keep Running opens with a very active drum solo, this one more modern and less like Krupa, before the bass enters at the three-minute mark, playing active single-note lines. Fujii enters at 3:38, scatter-gunning notes up and down the keyboard. Quite an abstract trip!

The final track, Moon on the Lake, begins with soft whines from the extreme top of Sugawa’s cello, followed in turn by Fujii apparently playing the inside piano strings. This eventually coalesces into a slow, dirge-like melody played on the cello, again sounding surprisingly classical, with Fujii filling in with chords. At around 7:25 the tempo and volume increase, the cymbal washes and rumbling bass notes mesh together, yet the cello continues its serene path. The track, and the album, end on a few sprinkled notes in the upper range of the piano.

This is yet another fascinating album from Fujii.

—© 2021 Lynn René Bayley

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