Satoko Fujii

Satoko Fujii and Natsuki Tamura are the duo. Fujii was born in Tokyo, Japan on October 9, 1958. She began playing piano when she was four years old. After receiving classical training, Fujii switched to jazz at twenty-eight. She studied at Boston’s Berklee College of Music from 1985 to 1987, where she was taught by Herb Pomeroy, Bill Pierce, and others. After six years in Japan, she returned to the US to continue her studies at the New England Conservatory of Music. Her teachers were Cecil McBee and George Russell. Paul Bley was a guest on her debut CD, Something About Water (Libra 1996). Fujii has been a leader and founder of many ensembles since then, from big bands to duos. Seven critically acclaimed CDs have been released by her New York trio, which includes drummer Jim Black and bassist Mark Dresser. Glenn Astarita, All About Jazz’s editor, wrote that Toward ‘To West’ was their third album. It was “Her most substantial small group effort to date.” Ms. Fujii’s music is a mix of purposeful soloing and sinuous flow, as well as hard-edged musings and sharp articulations. She also injects a variety of underlying themes and cross-currents. The Satoki Fujii Four was formed in 2004 by Natsuki Tamura, the husband of the trumpeter. They released critically acclaimed albums Live in Japan 2004 (and 2006’s When we Were There). The radically different Vulcan (Libra Records) was released in 2001 by the Satoko Fujii quartet, which features Tatsuya Yoshida, a Japanese avant-rock band, The Ruins. The five albums of the Japanese quartet, including Zephyros, Polystar, 2004 and Angelona, Libra, 2005, have been praised enthusiastically. JazzTimes’ Bill Bennett said, “The sensibility is here aggressive to the point that primitive.” “Vulcan… is a masterpiece in jazz expression” Fujii started two major bands, one in New York City, the other in Tokyo in 1996 and 1997. Each band was featured on a CD of the two-disc Double Take (EWE 2000), unique set. Fujii stated that he has learned to appreciate the differences between them in a jazzreview.com interview. “I believe the Japanese free-jazz players have a strong influence from the ’60s American free jazz scene. They are energetic and love to play. Their expressions can be quite aggressive, but they are often very positive. New York Downtown musicians draw strong inspiration from many types of music, including jazz, world music and contemporary music. They are also energetic in a new way.” Seven CDs have been released by the New York big band, including Undulation (2006), which featured four of her big bands from NY, Tokyo and Nagoya. Billboard’s Dan Ouellette said that there were a lot of jazz CDs out on September 12. But the most notable was Satoko Fujii’s unusual launch of four orchestral CDs. Fujii’s highlights in 2006 included performances in Toyko and New York as well as appearances at FIMAV, Canada’s Victoria Festival. In 2007 Fujii released four new CDs: Crossword Puzzle by Double Duo (Angelo Verploegen and Natsuki Tamura, trumpets and Misha Mengelberg as well as Fujii on piano); Minamo, a live recording with violinist Carla Kihlstedt, which Ben Ratliff of the New York Times says “is extraordinary, a series of tight, dramatic events;” Bacchus (Satoko Fujii Quartet), Fujin Raijin, (Min-Yoh Ensemble) which Steve Smith of Time Out New York describes as “a quietly masterful album that deserves to be heard not only by Fujii devotees, but also by those who have yet to take the plunge.” In 2008, Fujii released seven CDs: Trace A River (Satoko Fujii Trio with Mark Dresser and Jim Black) which Cadence magazine called “music without compromise, music without boundaries, music made like it means something;” Cloudy Then Sunny a second release from the trio Junk Box featuring Fujii, Tamura and John Hollenbeck on percussion; Sanrei with the Satoko Fujii Orchestra Nagoya which Dan McClenaghan of All About Jazz called: “an expect-the-unexpected affair, with rock riffs and brassy big band harmonies, aural riots of fist fighting horns and histrionic group scatting that sounds like some sort of manic mass religious ecstasy;” Chun, a duo CD with Natsuki Tamura which Troy Collins describes in his All About Jazz review as “Another brilliant document in the growing discography of one of today’s most important composers;” Summer Suite with the Satoko Fujii Orchestra NY, and “Heat Wave” by her new band Satoko Fujii’s ma-do with Tamura, Norikatsu Koreyasu(bass) and Akira Horikoshi (drums). Natsuki Tamura’s Gato Libre album Kuro also features her. She toured extensively in 2008, including stops at the Tokyo, Guelph and Vancouver Jazz Festivals. Fujii toured the USA and Canada in 2009 with the Larry Ochs Jazz and Drum Core. She has also released two CDs, Under the Water, which was a limited edition duo CD recorded at Maybeck Recital Hall by Myra Melford. Kuroi Kawa-Black River, a duo CD featuring Carla Kihlstedt and John Zorn’s Tzadik labels. This CD earned a spot on the Village Voice Critics Poll as one of the best new releases. Fujii also traveled extensively in 2009, including a European tour with her mado ensemble, which included performances at the North Sea Jazz Festival and Ljubljana Jazz Festival. She also made stops in Belgium, Germany (UK), Austria, Poland, Poland, and France. Satoko Fujii Four also performed at the Angel City Jazz Festival. She also toured America with the Larry Ochs Sax u0026 Drumming Core and released “Stone Shift”, a new CD with Ochs’ band. Fujii was also featured on the 2009 CD, “Cities”, with Raymond MacDonald. Fujii was also named “#1 Pianist Of The Year” (w. Marilyn Crispell), and “#4 Best Live Band” in El Intruso’s 3rd Annual Musicians Poll Results. Fujii has toured in Japan, Germany, France, the UK and France so far in 2010. She has also been featured on four CDs: Desert Ship (which showcases the intimate Japanese acoustic quartet Satoko Fujii) and Cut the Rope (with Natsuki Tamura), and Shiro with Tamura‚Äôs Gato Libre. Fujii was voted #4 best live band and #2 piano in El Intruso’s 4th Annual music poll. Fujii also performed three songs on the CD All Kinds of People Like Burt Bacharach, which Jim O’Rourke produced for the B.J.L. label. International performances with Carla Kihlstedt, Myra Melford, as well as European tours for First Meeting and mado are some of the other 2010 plans. Fujii was also selected to be the Montalvo Arts Center’s resident artist in January 2011. Fujii continues to expand the possibilities and broaden the boundaries of the various groups she has established over the past fifteen years. There is more to come as she pursues her ultimate goal, which is to create music that no one else has ever heard.

Leave a Comment