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Trace A River by Satoko Fujii

Freestyle jazz pianist/composer Satoko Fujii expresses on her website that for her ultimate goal, "I would love to make music that no one has heard before."

Her latest release, Trace A River with her trio, bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Jim Black is music that many people have indeed never heard before. Her free jazz stylistics are baton by a creative mind that is reminiscent of the freedom exercised by Slovenian drummer Zlatko Kaucic, and her lacerating cuts have a childlike fancy-free meandering reflective of Sweden’s lim. Fujii’s sonic images have surreal shadowing, angular lines and cubist shapes that move in inventive ways making the notes speak in a language that is unknown to humankind. The movements seem arbitrary, made at the spur of the moment and the instruments spontaneity is totally unpredictable and defies being packaged. As a listener, you never know in what direction the instruments will travel. The musicians autonomy dominates the flow of the activity and certifiably makes the circuitry of the compositions and the grids formed by the instruments highly original.

Pieces in the compositions burst like a field of giant sunflowers with a lot of pomp and magnetism, and other times, the music is very sedate but always seams an ad hoc phrasing. Most of the time, you feel like you are experiencing the odd patterns portrayed in Federico Fellini’s films only transformed into a sonic format expressed through music notes. There is a thrilling noir film shading in the compositions which gives the tunes a veil of mystery and steep contrasts in the coloring. If there is such a category as alternative jazz, Satoko Fujii has forged a path in it. She creates an altered state from using the traditional jazz psyche. She models her compositions by using no models at all, just relying on her own ability to construct freehand scripts negotiated through impulsive rattling keys that plot out avant angles. The compositions are completely unconventional and highly volatile and emotional. There are many different formats being implemented in these tunes rooted in jazz, pop, folk, and avant garde elements. The stitching along the transitions do not make the instrument patterns meet but exist in parallel universes moving along on a gondola with odd time signatures. Like a page of bloggers who chat about their own stories but never quite bridge their stories together and streamline the page is the image projected in Sakoto Fujii’s music.

Trace A River is modern art using alternative and freestyle strokes. It is highly sensitive and volatile material that blows up as quickly as a volcanic eruption and quiets down as smoothly as a child’s lullaby. The music feels portable like the musicians carry it along with them as they go. Nothing is structured or definite in the compositions, patterns and phrases change suddenly, keeping the trio on their toes and always surprising the audience. If some parts are pre-meditative, it is not apparent. The compositions feel 100% improvised and makes the musicians take flight without a safety net visibly below them.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Satoko Fujii
  • CD Title: Trace A River
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 2008
  • Record Label: Libra Records
  • Tracks: Trace A River, Take Right, Manta, A Maze Of Alleys, Day After Tomorrow, Kawasemi, February
  • Musicians: Satoko Fujii (piano), Mark Dresser (bass), Jim Black (drums)
  • Rating: Two Stars
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