Satoko Fujii Orchestra Tokyo — Peace (Tribute to Kelly Churko)
(Libra 217-039, 2016, CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 2017-02-15
We’ve been reviewing pianist and composer Satoko Fujii’s releases for a number of years, going back to the earliest days of the printed edition, as well as various side projects including Kaze (the internatioal quartet with her husband, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, French trumpeter Christian Pruvost, and French drummer Peter Orins, all of whom appear on this release). Even though we have covered many releases, this marks the first time we have reviewed something by Satoko Fujii Orchestra Tokyo, her Tokyo based 15 member free jazz ensemble, with a handful of previous releases. The subtitle of Peace is Tribute to Kelly Churko, who was the Canadian born guitarist who lived in Tokyo for a decade and played on the Tokyo group’s previous release Zakopane; “Peace,” the third track here, at ten minutes, was written in his memory, and is a blast of full throttle free jazz. Opening the disc is the 33 minute epic “2014,” which goes off in a lot of different directions over its duration, some quiet and pensive, others loud with seemingly all blowing at once (there are five saxophonists, five trumpeters and three trombonists here, along with bass and drums), and some quite experimental, but it holds together quite well. Tamura’s piece “Jasper” clocks in at nine minutes and presents a beautiful and haunting melody on trumpet at the opening, with droning trombones resulting in something somewhat reminiscent of bagpipes, but eventually the whole crew joins in and it gets pretty loud, but returns to a quieter reading of the pensive opening melody again before the end. The closer, “Beguine Nummer Eins,” features a memorable main melody and benefiting from a seemingly leaner concentration of instrumentation, along with numerous great solos over its six minute duration.
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