Exposé Online banner

Satoko Fujii — Invisible Hand
(Cortez Sound CSJ0001/0002, 2017, 2CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2017-03-24

Invisible Hand Cover art

Among the instruments common in jazz music, the piano occupies a special place as a foundational part of most ensembles. And given the instrument’s wide range of possible sounds, there is a huge variety style possible, from Thelonious Monk’s jumpy minimalism to Fats Waller’s rollicking blues to Oscar Peterson’s flamboyant invention to Bill Evans’ moody expressionism. Every jazz pianist of note has produced a body of solo work in addition to any group efforts, and Satoko Fujii is no exception. The last purely solo release I heard from her was Sketches in 2004. That was a studio recording, but Invisible Hand finds her in a live setting, captured April 28, 2016 at the Cortez club in the Japanese city of Mito. As to what school of jazz piano Fujii belongs to, the answer is “all of the above” — and also “none of the above.” In addition to various jazz idioms, she incorporates preparations, altering the instrument’s sound in ways that are quite unusual, not just the gong-like tones and percussive noises usually associated with prepared piano. From sparse Debussy-like meditations to frenetic cascades of notes to synthesizer-like sonorities achieved by reaching inside the piano, just about anything can happen. You’ll hear what might be called “abstract boogie-woogie,” vast clusters of notes that rumble in the lower register, melodic fragments broken up all over the keyboard, unpredictable rhythmic motifs, and more. The ten tracks range from one under five minutes to three topping the ten-minute mark, for roughly and hour and a half, and much of it was freely improvised. Fujii does hit on a few pieces from her previously recorded albums, including the reverential title track from her Gen Himmel album. Two of my favorites are among this album’s shorter selections. “Hayase” is a spirited romp based on the rhythmic repetition of a single note, with dizzying flurries and all sorts of craziness going on around it. “Green Cab” starts with some inside-the-piano playing, with metallic harp-like glissandos and some odd percussive sounds, then a tentative bass line comes in, unsure of a key, and then chordal jabs, fast runs, and bouncy melodic fragments appear, creating a warped stride workout that must have been a kick to watch her play live. Two full CDs of solo piano may be more than you want at a single go, but Fujii’s artistry is worthy in any size serving, and a free-spirited addition to the world of jazz keyboard.


Filed under: New releases, 2017 releases

Related artist(s): Satoko Fujii

Latest news

2020-10-14
Audion Is Back in Business – Our esteemed colleague Alan Freeman has restarted Audion Magazine after a seven year hiatus. The new incarnation is available online on their Bandcamp site. Audion's history goes back to 1984, and included 58 issues up to 2013. Issue #59 is available now, and #60 is in the works. » Read more

2020-10-06
Romantic Warriors IV – Krautrock (Part 2) Is in the Works – Zeitgeist Media, the people who have brought us the great series of documentary films chronicling the history of progressive rock, are working on the second installment of their examination of German music. Krautrock 2 will focus on artists from Münich such as Guru Guru, Amon Düül II, Xhol Caravan, Kraan, Witthüser & Westrupp, and Popol Vuh. » Read more

2020-09-09
Simeon Coxe RIP – Simeon Coxe, best known for his experimental electronics in the band Silver Apples, has died at the age of 82. The band's 1968 debut album set the stage for both German electronic music and experimental punk music a decade later. Coxe died on September 8 from pulmonary fibrosis. » Read more

2020-09-05
Gary Peacock RIP – Legendary bassist Gary Peacock, veteran of many recordings and performances with Paul Bley, George Russell, Roland Kirk, Bill Evans, Tony Williams, and many more. » Read more

2020-07-22
Tim Smith RIP – Tim Smith, leader of the eccentric band Cardiacs, has died at the age of 59 after many years of health problems. Cardiacs was known for intense and complicated music that combined punk energy with the rhythmic and harmonic sophistication of progressive rock. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Djam Karet - The Ritual Continues – Imagine a sound with the force and power of mid-period King Crimson, the fluidity and spaciness of Pink Floyd, and the percussive power of Peter Gabriel's Security. Throw into that mix a generous...  (1993) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues