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]Subscribe to our free newsletter for all the latest information about Satoko Fujii, other MYOM artists and related cultural gossip and news.