Japanese pianist and bandleader Satoko Fujii has built a career around exploring new sounds through her own synthesis of classical music, jazz, and noise. Her oeuvre is large, dense, and many jazz purists probably wouldn’t want to touch it. But those who are willing to persevere through the musical challenges she presents are rewarded with two brand new releases from two different Fujii-led ensembles.
Her acoustic quartet ma-do, featuring trumpeter/spouse Natsuki Tamura, offers up Desert Ship, while her big band Orchestra Tokyo gives us Zakopane. The former doesn’t sound like the Miles Davis quartets of old, and the latter sure doesn’t resemble Count Basie. The sooner we get that out of the way, the better. When you get right down to it, the excellence of these two releases hang on a common trait: Fujii’s ability to spin a highly memorable melody despite the inherent hindrances of the avant-garde. Highly recommended.