Imagine for a moment that
youre a young Japanese woman; you are blessed with the ability to play the piano
exceptionally well, and youve been at it since the age of four, diligently studying
the Western classical repertoire. But somethings missing; you yearn for less rigid
musical structures, new challenges. Jazz seems to offer these possibilities ... so
its off the United States, where you blossom at Bostons Berklee College of
Music, graduating magna cum laude in 1987.
Returning to your homeland, you find work in jazz clubs, on television
sets and as a performer for a software company. Still, youre not satisfied; learning
more about the musical traditions of Japan helps, but its not enough ... time to
return to Boston, where studies at the New England Conservatory of Music at last bring you
a sense of fulfillment, as do woodshedding sessions with creative improvisers.
Your lengthy apprenticeship bears much artistic fruit. You begin
recording and performing prolifically in 1996, both at home and abroad, culminating with Jo,
a distinctive recorded document of your 15-piece New York band; later this year, the large
ensemble you lead in Japan will see the release of its first CD.
Such is the laudable saga of Satoko Fujii. Too bad the U.S. jazz
industry, with few exceptions, no longer rewards innovation. Why else is it that this CD,
recorded in Brooklyn two years ago, performed by acknowledged masters of creative
improvisation, is being issued on a Dutch record label? Probably the same reason that many
of the most respected American improvising musicians of the past several decades have had
to resort to foreign companies to issue their work. If you need proof, take a look at the
catalogues of Black Saint/Soul Note (Italy), DIW (Japan), ECM (Germany) and Owl (France).
Granted, Jo (Japanese for "beginning") demands active
listening from its audience. You wont find Fujiis name listed on any of the
"Jazz for a Rainy Afternoon"-style compilations currently bombarding record
stores... thank God! Forget the fancy wine glasses and candlelight; this is music for your
soul. It requires you to concentrate if you wish to reap its rewards.
Allow yourself to be swept up by the solemn grandeur of
"Sola," with its layers of brass and reed instruments, a bluesy funeral
procession. Marvel at Jack Walraths clarion call, his trumpet wailing and moaning
above the murmur of the others.
Be delighted by Chris Speeds dancing clarinet, as its notes leap
and shout gleefully--in step with his colleagues horns, tambourines and frame
Or marvel at the leaders dramatic entry on the title selection,
her piano instantly silencing the saxophones, trumpets and trombones that have been vying
for attention for the previous eight minutes. Here, as elsewhere on Jo,
Fujiis musical influences coalesce into something very unique, producing exciting
compositional clay from which she and her band mates can mold bold new shapes with their
For more information about this and other BUZZ recordings, visit the
companys website at http://www.challenge.nl
Copyright©WWUH: March/April Program Guide, 2000