Satoko Fujii Quartet
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Satoko Fujii Quartet Satoko Fujii piano

Natsuki Tamura trumpet/toys

Takeharu Hayakawa

Tatsuya Yoshida

Satoko Fujii Quartet's first CD Vulcan marks a dramatic extension of the young Japanese pianist's art into the realms of avant-garde rock. Working with Tatsuya Yoshida, the drummer/mastermind behind the Japanese rock band Ruins, Fujii produces one of her most high-energy, genre bending releases ever. It has received wide critical acclaim and a second CD, Minerva, was released to coincide with the band's fifteen-date European tour in November 2002.

A graduate of the Berklee College of Music and the New England Conservatory, Satoko Fujii has impressed critics and fans alike as an instrumentalist and composer of rare ability and range. She "negotiates the path between Cecil Taylor's hyper-kinetic dissonance and more meditative styles of piano players like Randy Weston and Abdullah Ibrahim," says Michael Kramer of the New York Times. With three big band albums to her credit, Fujii's composing was praised as "melodiously left of center," by Billboard. As versatile as she is talented, she has recorded as an unaccompanied soloist, in duet with violinist Mark Feldman and pianist Paul Bley, with a Japanese sextet, and with big bands in both New York and Japan. Stuart Broomer of Coda magazine described Fujii as "one of the more arresting new voices in jazz".

The quartet is truly an all-star ensemble. Tatsuya Yoshida founded Ruins 1986, earning an international following as one of the most innovative and unpredictable rock bands in the world, wedding virtuoso musicianship with progressive rock energy and new music technique. Trumpeter Natsuki Tamura has recorded an album of solo trumpet and performs extensively with Fujii (to whom he is married) in her big bands, sextet, and in duo settings. Like Satoko, he brings a natural lyricism to new music explorations of sound and structure. Takeharu Hayakawa, one of Japan's premiere new music bassists, is a longtime member of the internationally celebrated Dr. Umezu Band, has performed with John Zorn and recorded with some of Japan's leading avant-garde improvisers.

There are very few working jazz groups that demand the attention of the rock audience at the moment. This is certainly no slight on today's jazz artists, but it would seem that the demographic gap between jazz and rock is bigger than it was say, 25 years ago. Fujii is one of a handful of artists who would seem to have as many potential fans in the rock world as jazz. Things like raw energy and inspiration have never been exclusive to any musical genre, and it would be a shame if the inspired creativity I hear on this album was only heard by a few jazz critics and Japanese music fans—Dominique Leone, Pitchfork [Vulcan]

The group unleashes power and energy as they explore the episodic compositions by Satoko and Tamura. The writing steers the band through a variety of instrumentations and styles, following their own inner logic. "The Sun in an Moonlight Night" opens with the eerie vocalizing of Tatsuya Yoshida supported by alien gurgles from trumpeter Tamura, and puts the band through its paces as it moves through hard-rocking passages, and a slow tango touched by Fujii's melodious energy. Tamura's "Incident" divides the quartet into contrasting trumpet/bass and piano/drums duos, them weaves them back together. The explosive "Junction" hits hard, subsides for some pensive piano then kicks back in for a rocking conclusion. "LH Fast" features a long sinuous piano and drums unison that sparks some spectacular free-energy improvisation powers by Yoshida's massive drum patterns. Satoko Fujii's utterly unique take on free-jazz/avant-rock fusion is one of her most surprising and enjoyable albums and should shake up fans from both worlds. Four forward-looking artists combine their experience and creative passion for one smokin' session … Satoko Fujii continues to be one of the most creative voices in contemporary jazz—
Jim Sanatella, All About Jazz [Vulcan]

Vulcan is a choice work, a great work for the genius of jazz pianist Satoko Fujii … What makes Satoko Fujii one of the most unusual, creative pianists today, is that she is both imaginative and surrealistic, and her talent is a great one. Vulcan is a masterpiece of jazz expression … ***** — Jazz Review

Satoko Fujii, the young Japanese pianist, came to Britain a couple of years ago on an under-publicised trip witnessed only by the fortuitous, but she made a powerful impression with her combination of classical training, improvising experiments, and remarkable empathy with her trumpeter husband Natsuki Tamura. This quartet also includes drummer/ singer Tatsuya Yoshida, founder of the Japanese noise-rock band Ruins, with whom British guitarist Derek Bailey has recorded. There's plenty of abrupt, slamming percussion, giving way to Fujii's astonishing high-energy clusters, dark, baleful funk, hammering runs and minimalist ripples. Tamura's mournful whoops and sighs build into free-jazz scuttles and flurries, and some exquisite slow reveries from the leader that confirm how personally she extends the language of contemporary improvisation out of jazz roots. Only the orthodox swing sounds unconvincing***—John Fordham, The Guardian [Minerva]
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