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Dieser Zug 14:46
Kumazemi 10:41
76 RH 11:43


Pianist-composer Satoko Fujii hasn’t let the global pandemic slow her down. She’s recorded solo and duet albums at home and made others by swapping sound files over the internet. Now comes Mosaic, her new album with her trio This Is It!, her first pandemic album made in real time with one band member in a remote location. With drummer Takashi Itani 400 miles away in a Tokyo suburb and Fujii and trumpeter Natsuki Tamura at home together in Kobe, they overcame technical and artistic challenges to capture the buoyant, interactive spirit of their live performances. “This pandemic pushed me to find new ways to create that I have never tried before,” Fujii says. “Nothing can stop us from making music!”

Fujii missed the opportunity to record the band live last year. “I had two shows in 2020, both at Pit Inn. The first day, I played with my Tokyo Trio and that was recorded and released as Moon on the Lake. On the second day, I played with This is It!, but I didn’t record it. I really regret that now.”

However, from the beginning of the pandemic, the trio rehearsed online several times and enjoyed it. “I can make music exchanging files online,” Fujii says, “but this trio plays spontaneous improvisation and needs the inspiration that we get when we play together. So we decided to record a session on the internet.”

They discovered that it was not the same as performing and recording in person. For one thing, internet connections can sometimes delay the transmission of sound and they needed to compensate for that when it happened. Fujii found there was another challenge as well. “I had to consciously concentrate more on listening,” she said. “If we play in the same room, listening is as natural as breathing, I’m almost unaware that I’m doing it. But on the internet, it was not like breathing. My ears worked like listening carefully to another language; it required a little extra effort. But we found we could make music in this way.”

Indeed they can. The album bubbles over with the joy of music making, the sheer delight they take in challenging and supporting one another. They play with fierce urgency on “Habana’s Dream,” feeding off each other in a multi-layered ensemble performance. It features Fujii at her most percussive and explosive, with Tamura and Itani alternating brilliant flashes of sound and color with darker, grittier passages. “Dieser Zug,” featuring Itani on vibes, is a lovely construction of contrasting parts. In one section, Itani’s sparkling vibraphone dances around Fujii’s percussive note clusters as Tamura weaves soft low tones between them. It’s a stellar display of the ways in which the trio interlocks their ideas with compelling clarity and balance. The trio initially uses the melody of Fujii’s “Kumazemi” to guide their improvising, but they gradually move far afield from it, exploring timbre and sound as they build tension and momentum. “Sleepless Night” is a dark tone poem, with Itani’s metallic clicking and clattering making a disturbing racket as Fujii and Tamura engage in a troubled dialogue. “76 RH” takes the album out with a burst of energy, blending Fujii’s composition seamlessly with full-on free improvisation. If working virtually posed challenges for this group, it doesn’t show.


released November 19, 2021

This is It!
Natsuki Tamura - trumpet
Satoko Fujii - piano
Takashi Itani - drums
Recorded by Satoko Fujii and Takashi Itani at their homes in Kobe City and Soka City, Japan in June, 2021.
Mixed and mastered by Mike Marciano, Systems Two, Long Island, NY in August, 2021.


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Satoko Fujii Tokyo, Japan

She’s “a virtuoso piano improviser, an original composer and a band-leader who gets the best collaborators to deliver," says John Fordham in The Guardian. In concert and on nearly 100 albums as a leader or co-leader, the globe-trotting Japanese native synthesizes jazz, contemporary classical, avant-rock, and Japanese folk music into an innovative music instantly recognizable as hers alone. ... more

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