Could it be that beneath the demure exterior of jazz pianist Satoko Fujii
beats the heart of a heavy metal babe? That could be so on the evidence
of this disc.
who maintains residences in both Tokyo and New York has become justly
famous for her big band work and sensitive small group sessions with the
likes of New York downtowners violinist Mark Feldman, bassist Mark Dresser,
drummer Jim Black, plus her husband, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura. This CD,
on the other hand, finds her and the trumpeter trading licks with electric
bassist Takeharu Hayakawa and, more surprisingly, drummer Tatsuya Yoshida,
one-half of industrial noise-rock band The Ruins, who also vocalizes lyrics
in a language all his own.
only that, but Tamura, who has recorded minimalist duets with Black and
others, is in full screech mode here. The end result is as if the pianist
was in a band completed by supersonic note specialist trumpeter Maynard
Ferguson, histrionic punk-jazz bassist Jaco Pastorius and Led Zeppelin
drummer John Bonham.
Yoshida, whose work is most problematic here. Still operating as one part
of a quartet does mute some of his most exhibitionistic tendencies, which
he exhibited full force in live duo dates with Fujii. Cutting to the chase:
the drummer while inventive and rhythmic and loud -- and boy is he loud
-- has no sense of jazz dynamics or time. One doesn't expect him to swing
in the approved neo-con fashion, but he could do more to integrate his
playing into a band concept. Many times his avant head-banging beat is
so overwhelming that a mere sliver of piano sounds pokes through the mammoth
percussion overload. His possessed-Linda-Blair-in-"The-Exorcist"-voice
on track one adds gravitas, but not much difference to the music.
he has recorded with certified jazzbos like reedists Katayama Hiroaki
and Dr. Kazutoki Umezu, Hayakawa is also part of the problem: he seems
to be missing an "off" switch. When he and Yoshida are going
full force there's no space anywhere in the music. Those who recall the
sound-and-silences interaction Fujii has had with Dresser and Black may
wonder if she has been replaced by a doppelganger. Too much can't be made
of this, though, since the session is under her name and she wrote all
but three of the nine tunes.
a matter of fact, there are times when she bears down so forcefully on
the keyboard with dynamic octaves and Tamura lets loose with cascading
clear toned trumpet lines that they could be Myra Melford and Dave Douglas
in one of that other pianist's most commanding quintet tunes. Still, Yoshida's
speed-of-light percussion excursion solo which ranges from smashing the
foot pedals on both bass drums, repeated beats on the snares, tom and
floor tops and constant use of ride cymbals, crash cymbals and sock cymbals
gives a new meaning to the term bombastic. Throughout he -- and to a lesser
extent Hayakawa, with his exaggerated strums -- appear to be playing in
contrast, rather than in concert with the others.
flat-sounding underamplified bass appears calmer on his duet with the
trumpeter. Yet even here he seems to feel that he has to echo every smear,
trill and cry that comes from the Tamura. Think of Miles Davis with Marcus
Miller or Foley, not Paul Chambers or Ron Carter.
exhibits a steel hard touch, elongated tremolos and key clipping when
she duets with Yoshida. Antsy and more obstreperous than you would imagine
in a situation like this, the drummer genuinely seems to be trying to
hold himself back, but ends up sounding like he's trying to dig a hole
in his snare with his drum sticks. Accompaniment is much more effective
earlier on, when the pianist's reflective arpeggios are matched by the
occasional triangle peal, the shaking of a sound tree, the plink of cymbals,
and -- probably courtesy of Tamura -- the clatter of toy tops spinning.
should be applauded for trying something new with this disc, even if the
heavy metal bass playing and telephone book-like banging from the drummer
upset some people. Tamura's cat-like bent plunger work does get a work
out, and the pianist -- when she can be heard -- offers inventive variations
on techniques ranging from New Thing right handed skittles to impressionistic
finger exercises. The essence of improvisation is experimentation, after
all. But maybe next time, Ms. F. how about doing so with a different drummer?
Listing: 1. The sun in a moonlight night; 2. Incident; 3. Ninepin; 4.
Footstep; 5. LH Fast; 6. Neko no Yume; 7. Explore; 8. Untitled; 9. Junction
Natsuki Tamura, trumpet, toys; Satoko Fujii, piano; Takeharu Hayakawa,
bass; Tatsuya Yoshida, drums, voice