This Is It! — 1538
(Libra 203 049, 2018, CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 2018-07-20
This Is It! What is? 1538 is the melting point of iron (in degrees celsius), but 1538 is also the title of the first album by this new Satoko Fujii trio configuration featuring her husband, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, and percussionist Takashi Itani. Itani was a member of Fujii’s “New Trio” with bassist Todd Nicholson. After their 2013 debut Spring Storm (a great one, highly recommended) Tamura joined the group, now renamed Quartet Tobira, and they recorded Yamiyo ni Karasu in 2014. After Nicholson departed, the remainder of the quartet continued playing as Tobira Minus One, but after a period of time a trio identity emerged and Fujii rechristened the group with a new name, This Is It! This time out, Fujii composed all of the material – some pieces written especially for this trio, but most were taken from a large backlog of compositions that Fujii has on file: “When I sit at the piano, I always compose for 15 minutes before I begin to practice. After doing this for more thn ten years, I have 12 books of written compositions.” When she starts to compose a new piece, she turns to those pieces as seeds for a new compositions. 1538 begins with the title track, a free jazz opening featuring some manic trumpeting that sounds very much like someone’s blood-curdling scream, all laid down before the piece starts to take shape under the guidance of Fujii’s pano. Itani’s drumming and percussion is truly spirited and gives the piano chaotic counterpoint. If that opening ride is a little too wild for you, one can always settle in on the more subtle “Riding on the Clouds” where Itani and Tamura ply a more gentle path for what seems like an improvisation flight for Fujii that gradually takes shape step by step into a beautifully melodic suite. “Climb the Rapids” takes a more tightly composed approach with some majestic and stirring piano and great passages for trumpet. The closer, “Yozora,” is the album’s longest track at just over thirteen minutes, with the first four being a stretch of near inauduble percussives, squeaks from the trumpet, and occasional single piano notes, but by the six minute mark the piece has taken shape into a recognizable form with all players firing on all cylinders. Here esecially, Tamura blows out some beautiful melodies and free-form wailing bursts of color while Fujii’s sparkling piano dances around it all. I’m not sure if there is more to come from this trio configuration or if this is it, but it does represent another magical facet of Fujii’s body of work.
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