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Satoko Fujii Tokyo Trio — Moon on the Lake
(Libra 203-065, 2021, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2021-08-16

Moon on the Lake Cover art The classic piano trio lineup of piano, bass, and drums is not a setting that we often hear Satoko Fujii playing in. She’s well-known for a wide range of common and uncommon configurations, but Moon on the Lake puts her into the hallowed tradition — though of course she brings her own unique sensibilities to bear, and the result is distinctively her own. The opening track is “Hansho,” and after a brief intro of angular, dissonant chords featuring all three, bassist Takashi Sugawa dives into an unaccompanied solo, freely exploring his instrument for two minutes before Fujii rejoins him with more dissonant chords before another group section, which is followed by a drum solo by Ittetsu Takemura, again free-form and featuring some great cymbal work along with all sorts of unconventional playing. Interestingly enough, Fujii is the only one who doesn’t take an unaccompanied solo on the track, though her splashy Cecil Taylor-esque playing towards the end could almost count. “Wait for the Moon to Rise” features eerie ambient playing, with bowed cymbals, inside-the-piano sounds, and a weird sound that I think involves harmonics on bowed bass or possibly cello. When the composed part of the tune comes along, it’s approached very freely, with a slow, melancholy piano part, bowed melody from Sugawa, and drums that never settle into keeping the tempo. It’s a ten-minute master class in setting mood and interpreting a skeletal composition. Other tracks feature other kinds of plans, utilizing all the possible combinations of players in the trio, and all three are creative and imaginative musicians who get the most out of their instruments. I’ve lost track of how many of Satoko Fujii’s albums I’ve heard (at least off the top of my head — like any sensible reviewer, I keep a list of all my albums, and a glance at it shows 25 for Fujii and her various groups), but I’d definitely say that Moon on the Lake is one of the best. It balances her lyrical side with her wildly experimental side in a very pleasing way, pushing outside the bounds of typical piano trio music but not so far that it’s unrecognizable.

Filed under: New releases, 2021 releases

Related artist(s): Satoko Fujii

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