Hard, heavy and relentlessly rhythmic, ZEPHYROS is the third outing for
pianist Satoko Fujii's part Free Jazz/part Post Rock quartet. Combing
the improv capabilities of Fujii and her husband trumpeter Natsuki Tamura
with the more overt rock orientation of electric bassist Takeharu Hayakawa
and Ruins drummer Tatsuya Yoshida, the seven pieces roar along with the
speed and exhilaration of any ProgRock outing.
Trouble is, while the pianist uses her skills and compositional talents
to create something more than the standard jazz fusion outing, she's still
only using one part of her talents. Like the protagonist in the 1950s
film Three Faces of Eve, there are at least three Satoko Fujiis. One adds
pounding piano lines to all the tunes she composed here. But the other
two -- individually the sensitive stylist who records chamber improv with
the likes of bassist Mark Dresser and violinist Mark Feldman and the accomplished
composer/arranger who shapes big bands in Japan and New York -- are MIA.
Think of what could be accomplished if the proficiencies of Fujii's other
"faces" were added to the talents here. On this CD, it sometimes
seems as if what Hayakawa, who is part of Dr. Umezu's jazz-fusion band,
and Yoshida bring to the bandstand nearly overpowers the contributions
of Tamura and Fujii.
The frantic "15 Minutes to Get to the Station", for instance,
which luckily doesn't take that amount of time to play, finds the pianist's
introductory, single note cadenzas buried beneath the drummer's falsetto
yelps, yells and near vocal retching. After the honking of a toy plastic
horn, the bassist produces jet plane powered licks and the trumpeter introduces
smeared chromatic runs. Soon the steady drone of Hayakawa's bass gives
way to Yoshida, who always seems intent on battering and banging every
part of his kit. Even glancing grace notes from Tamura and Fujii's accelerating,
double time pressure doesn't see, to faze or even mute his outlay. Finally
more moderate piano chording and a sour-sounding brass run brings the
percussionist back to
earth, but not before Yoshida has screamed a few more time and created
busywork with his trap set.
In the same way, "First Tango" has only a faint Latin tinge
and appears far removed from the Argentinean dance rhythm. With a bass
guitar lead that resembles Jaco Pastorius or Stanley Clarke at their most
ornate, Yoshida adds press rolls that quickly evolve into reverberations
that could come from electronic drum pads. After the trumpeter contributing
a series of triplets and the pianist Cecil Taylor like-dynamic slurred
fingering, a combination of bass and piano accompaniment and a rubato
passage from Tamura eventually gives the tune its slight Hispanic cast.
Tamura gets to showcase his muted, electric period Miles Davis licks elsewhere
and Fujii does the same with brief melodic parts. However, the most successful
compositions are those that are furthest removed from dogmatic rock, jazz
and jazz/rock traditions.
"Clear Sky -- For Christopher", for one, is performed with a
lilt reminiscent of a Kurt Weill cabaret song. It best utilizes Yoshida's
oddly metered drumming, shows off high frequency runs from Fujii and allows
Tamura's vibrating bent tones to seemingly accelerate the melody as much
as express it. Before the initial theme is reprised at the end, the tune
has evolved into a jaunty merry go round of trumpet mimicry and bouncing
"Flying to the South", which is supposed to be linked to ProgRock,
showcases a lyrical piano fantasia that gradually hardens as the trumpeter
plays a simple repetitive pattern. Creating multi variations on Fujii's
theme the brassman overrides the funky vamp from Hayakawa's four electrified
strings and Yoshida's high intensity banging.
An interesting funk-fusion variation, ZEPHYROS demands too many hard,
McCoy Tyner-like modal vamps from Fujii without allowing her other talents
full range. Long time followers may rate it higher. Too often, though,
it appears as if she and the rest of the band are trying to act out the
first song title, trying to create "The Future of the Past"
instead of going straight to the future.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. The Future of the Past 2. As Usual 3. Flying to the
South 4. First Tango 5. One Summer Day 6. Clear Sky -- For Christopher
7. 15 Minutes to Get to the Station
Personnel: Natsuki Tamura (trumpet); Satoko Fujii (piano); Takeharu Hayakawa
(electric bass); Tatsuya Yoshida (drums and voice)