First meeting of Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii and New York bassist Joe Fonda, initiated at the suggestion of Fonda, recording in Portland, Maine at the Dimensions in Jazz Series, a beautifully recorded and intimate duo of superb dialog between two seasoned improvisers.
Fujii, Satoko / Joe Fonda
Label: Long Song Records
Released in: Italy
"Great improvisers reveal a lifetime of experience and artistry in every note. For both pianist Satoko Fujii and bassist Joe Fonda, that brings to bear an estimable history of collaboration with some of the music's greatest practitioners and travel that spans the globe. It also means that despite the fact that their winding paths had never previously crossed, they immediately tapped a rich vein of musical understanding during their first-ever performances together.On Duet, a live recording of their second concert in November 2015, they share a seemingly telepathic link that makes the music intimate and mercurial. It's an adventurous musical exchange that features some of their best playing on record. Duet was released October 7, 2016, on Long Song Records.
Both artists are travel the world to perform with their ensembles. Fujii is in the midst of a yearlong international celebration of the 20th anniversary of her Libra Records label. Fonda, one of the most in-demand bassists in new jazz, is often on the road leading his own groups, performing with one of the many collaborative bands he's in, or travelling as a sideman. While Fonda was on tour with Conference Call in Germany, a promoter recommended that Fonda give Fujii a listen. "He thought that I would love her music and might enjoy playing with her," Fonda says. "I thought if he is so excited about her, I'd better check out her playing. So I did and immediately knew I had to play with her. So I got in touch with her."
Fujii was surprised to hear from him. Their mutual friend talked about Joe a lot, but she didn't think that he'd ever heard her music. "Of course, I knew his name, but to tell the truth I hadn't heard much of his playing," she says.
When she mentioned she was coming to New York, Joe organized a few concerts. "As I suspected it would be," Fonda says, "it was quite magical."The rapport between them is magical indeed. They seem to anticipate each other, sometimes spontaneously playing the same phrases at the same time, finishing each other's thoughts, or concluding independent lines simultaneously. The woody sound, intense physicality, and percussive quality of Fonda's bass contrasts beautifully with Fujii's more flowing lines. And both are eager explorers of unusual timbres and extended techniques that add color and depth to the music. Fujii structures her improvisations around sharp contrasts, sudden changes in direction, and her ability to absorb what her bandmates are doing into her own musings. Fonda, with long experience with collective bands, is an unfailingly supportive partner who can subtly insert ideas that shape and direct an improvisation. When they welcome trumpeter Natsuki Tamura to join them for the second set, the music grows richer and even more complex and layered.
"Joe is very open and flexible and that made me feel so free to play anything," Fujii says. "And he plays very strong, puts all of himself into his music, which inspires me to dig deeper into myself."
Critics and fans alike hail pianist and composer Satoko Fujii as one of the most original voices in jazz today. She's "a virtuoso piano improviser, an original composer and a bandleader who gets the best collaborators to deliver," says John Fordham in The Guardian. In concert and on more than 80 albums as a leader or co-leader, she synthesizes jazz, contemporary classical, avant-rock and Japanese folk music into an innovative music instantly recognizable as hers alone. Her most recent group, Satoko Fujii Tobira with trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, bassist Todd Nicholson, and drummer Takashi Itani, released their debut recording Yamiyo Ni Karasu in 2015. ""There are pulse-pounding rhythms, vibrant tones and dark chords woven together into a multi-shaded tapestry of soundŠWhat an absolute pleasure to listen to Satoko Fujii." wrote Travis Rogers Jr. in The Jazz Owl. Over the years, Fujii has led some of the most consistently creative ensembles in modern improvised music, including the ma-do quartet, the Min-Yoh Ensemble, and an electrifying avant-rock quartet featuring drummer Tatsuya Yoshida of The Ruins. She has also established herself as one of the world's leading composers for large jazz ensembles, leading Cadence magazine to call her, "the Ellington of free jazz." Her ultimate goal: "I would love to make music that no one has heard before."
Joe Fonda "is a serious seeker of new musical horizons," according to the Boston Phoenix. From 1984 to 1999, he was the bassist with composer-improviser and NEA Jazz Master Anthony Braxton. Fonda also has been an integral member of several cooperative bands, including the Fonda-Stevens Group with Michael Jefry Stevens, Herb Robertson, and Harvey Sorgen; Conference Call, with Gebhard Ullmann, Stevens, and George Schuller; the Fab Trio with Barry Altschul and Billy Bang; and the Nu Band with Mark Whitecage, Roy Campbell, and Lou Grassi. He is currently a member of 3dom Factor, Alschul's trio with saxophonist Jon Irabagon, and guitarist Michael Musillami's trio, among others. He has collaborated and performed with other artists such as Archie Shepp, Ken McIntyre, Lou Donaldson, Bill and Kenny Barron, Wadada Leo Smith, Randy Weston, and Carla Bley.
Fonda has led some truly unique ensembles of his own including From the Source, which features four instrumentalists, a tap dancer, and a body healer/vocalist; and Bottoms Out, a sextet with Gerry Hemingway, Joe Daley, Michael Rabinowitz, Claire Daly, and Gebhard Ullmann. He has released twelve recordings under his own name.
From first learning about one another in Bielefeld, Germany, to a stunning performance in Portland, Maine, the duo of Satoko Fujii and Joe Fonda has covered a lot of territory, both geographically and musically. "That's the way things work in the music business," Fonda says, "things just happen. And you have no idea why the door swings open so that you end up working with a particular person. It just happens that way-the door swings open, you walk through, and you find your new musical associate on the other side." "-Long Song Records
"The story behind the creation of the miraculous album, Duet by pianist Satoko Fujii and bassist Joe Fonda is one of those things that makes one a believer in karma.
Although both have played with reed man Gebhard Ullmann in various configurations, Fujii and Fonda had never met, and had not heard much, if any, of each other's music. Now, this might seem strange since both are acknowledged leaders of free/avant-garde jazz, and both have powerful musical personalities and immediately recognizable sounds. However, that such highly creative and directed musicians, closely focused on their own playing, composing and touring, had never met is almost natural, despite knowing each other by reputation.
The meeting ended up happening because of a suggestion made to Fonda that he should listen to Fujii's music and would then want to play with her. Fujii's music made a deep impression on Fonda, and he contacted her. For her part, Fujii was surprised to hear from Fonda and they managed to get together on November 14, 2015 at the Buttonwood Tree Performing Arts & Cultural Center, in Middletown, Connecticut for the 10th Annual Jazz CT Composers and Improvisers Festival.
This recording was made the next night in Portland, Maine at the Woodfords Congregational Chapel for the Dimensions in Jazz Series run by Paul Lichter. The superb quality of the sound is immediately evident-the piano sings and the bass is woody and fully focused; you are there.
The music created de novo is reminiscent of an earlier Fujii encounter with Carla Kihlstedt, recorded as Minamo. It is just as intense and just as amazingly organic in its development. Fujii spoke of how she and Kihlstedt connected, and in that mysterious manner of supreme improvisors, create coherent music with no preparation; the same happens here with Fonda. In the former, Kihlstedt floats above Fujii, while here Fonda bubbles below her.
Fonda is an extremely powerful player, and from a good playback system, will almost knock you over. He is quite used to playing in loose co-operative groups, but, in recordings at least, not so much in such a completely free and exposed venue, which could be said to be Fujii's forte. In any case, Fonda matches Fujii as far as being a "force of nature" and pushes as much as he is pulled. The energy flowing between them is palpable, exciting and occasionally almost unbearable.
The only quibble is that there is "only" just under forty-nine minutes of music presented in two tracks, the first over three times as long as the second. Perhaps the rest of the music will appear someday.
The first track is a bravura performance that features many of the musical mannerisms that will be familiar to those who follow Fujii and Fonda. The duo produces astonishing musical textures that arise out of the mists. They engage in what sounds like joyous battle at times, only to swerve in a flash to produce ethereal sounds that float in mid-air.
The audience is silent, and must have been holding its collective breath. At the end of thirty-seven continuous minutes of intense concentration, the condensed atmosphere virtually melts as everyone murmurs in amazement at what had just taken place.
The second track, taken from the second set, includes Fujii's husband and musical partner, trumpeter/sound-maker Natsuki Tamura, and so naturally the textures produced are different. As might be expected, Fujii and Tamura know each other extremely well, but Fonda is definitely not a third wheel, and indeed, matches Tamura's virtuosic sound production when playing the flute in the last third of the track.
Duet is a perfect example of the paradox that is Creative Improvised Music in that the recording captures and seals in amber a spontaneous musical happening which can never, ever occur again. Those familiar with this genre will revel in its easy virtuosity and deep musical spirituality; for those unfamiliar, both Duet and Minamo are phenomenal performances."-Budd Kopman, All About Jazz
• Show Bio for Satoko Fujii
"Born on October 9, 1958 in Tokyo, Japan, Fujii began playing piano at four and received classical training until twenty, when she turned to jazz. From 1985-87, she studied at Boston's Berklee College of Music, where her teachers included Herb Pomeroy and Bill Pierce. She returned to Japan for six years before returning to the US to study at the New England Conservatory in Boston, where her teachers included George Russell, Cecil McBee, and Paul Bley, who appeared on her debut CD Something About Water (Libra, 1996).
Since then Fujii has been an innovative bandleader and soloist, a tireless seeker of new sounds, and a prolific recording artist in ensembles ranging from duos to big bands. She has showcased her astonishing range and ability approximately 80 CDs as leader or co-leader. With each new recording or new band, she explores new aspects of her art.
Regular collaborations include her New York trio with bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Jim Black, augmented by trumpeter/husband Natsuki Tamura to form the Satoki Fujii Four; her duo with Tamura; the Satoko Fujii Quartet featuring Tatsuya Yoshida of the Japanese avant-rock duo, The Ruins; Orchestra New York, which boasts the cream of New York's contemporary avant garde improvisers, including saxophonists Ellery Eskelin and Tony Malaby, trumpeters Herb Roberton and Steven Bernstein, and trombonist Curtis Hasselbring, among others; Orchestra Tokyo, drawing on that city's best improvisers; Orchestra Nagoya; Orchestra Kobe; the co-operative trio Junk Box with Tamura and percussionist John Hollenbeck; ma-do, a quartet including Tamura on trumpet, bassist Norikatsu Koreyasu, and Akira Horikoshi; the Min-Yoh Ensemble with Tamura, trombonist Hasselbring, and accordionist Andrea Parkins; the Satoko Fujii New Trio, featuring bassist Todd Nicholson and drummer Takashi Itani― plus countless engagements and collaborations with some of the world's most important improvisers."-Satoko Fujii Website (http://www.satokofujii.com/bio.html)
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• Show Bio for Joe Fonda
"Joe Fonda is a composer, bassist, recording artist, interdisciplinary performer, producer and educator.
An accomplished international Jazz artist, Fonda has performed with his own ensembles throughout the United States ,Canada , Europe and Asia. He has collaborated and performed with such artists as Anthony Braxton ,Archie Shepp, Ken McIntyre, Lou Donaldson, Bill and Kenny Barron, Leo Smith, Perry Robinson, Dave Douglas, Curtis Fuller, , Bill Dixon, Han Bennink, Bobby Naughton, Xu Fengia, Randy Weston, Gebhard Ullmann, Carla Bley, Carlo Zingaro, Barry Altschul, Billy Bang.
Fonda was the bassist with the renowned Anthony Braxton sextet, octet, tentet, from 1984 through 1999. Fonda also sat on the Board of Directors from 1994 to 1999, and was the President from 1997 to 1999 of the newly formed Tri-Centric Foundation. He has also performed with the 38-piece Tri-Centric orchestra under the direction of Anthony Braxton, and was the bassist for the premiere performance of Anthony Braxton's opera, Shalla Fears for the Poor, performed at the John Jay Theater in New York, New York, October 1996.
As a composer, Fonda has been the recipient of numerous grants and commissions From Meet the Composer New York and the New England Foundation on the Arts . He has released twelve recordings under his own name. (Reviews and recordings available). Fonda was also a member of The Creative Musicians Improvisors Forum directed by Leo Smith, and was the bassist with the American Tap Dance Orchestra in New York City, directed by world renowned tap dancer, Brenda Bufalino.
In 1989, Fonda performed with Fred Ho's Jazz and Peking opera in its world premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. From 1982 to 1986 Fonda was the bassist and dancer with the Sonomama Dance Company. An independent producer since 1978, Fonda is the founding director of Kaleidoscope Arts an interdisciplinary performance ensemble and is the producer and musicial director for the Connecticut Composers and improvisors Festival from 2001 to 2011.
Currently Fonda has been recording and touring extensively with the Fonda-Stevens Group, Conference Call , The Fab Trio, The Nu Band and Bottoms Out , with performances at the Bim huis in Amsterdam, Holland, Prague Jazz Festival, Czech Republic, Jazz Halo Festival, Belgium, Jazz Festival Thurinsen, Weimer, Germany, Berlin Jazz Festival Berlin Germany , Jazz Im Agusto Festival Lisbon Portugal, Natt Jazz Festival Bergen Norway, The Vision Festival New York, New York, Jazz and More Festival Sibiu Romania, Bakau Jazz Festival ,Azerbijan, Tondela Jazz Festival Tondala portugal , Vancouver Jazz Festival ,Vancouver Canada, Guelph Jazz Festival ,Guelph Canada .
Two of Fonda's most recent projects are From the Source, The Off Road Quartet.
From the Source is a group that incorporates the tap dancing and poetry of Brenda Bufalino and the healing arts of Vicki Dodd, and four jazz musicians. The group has released their first CD entitled, Joe Fonda and From the Source, on Konnex Records.
The Off Road Quartet is comprised of four musicians from four different countries. Ux Fengia from Beijing China , Carlos Zingaro from Lisbon Portugal , Lucas Niggle from Zurich Switzerland and Joe Fonda New York USA. The Off Road Quartet blends the musics from all four of these musicians cultures into a unique musicial and visual experence."-Joe Fona Website (http://joefonda.com/biography)
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Label: Long Song Records
Catalog ID: LSRCD140/2016
Squidco Product Code: 22158
Packaging: Cardboard Gatefold
Recorded at Woodfords Congregational Church in Portland, Oregon, on November 15th, 2015, by Peter Nenortas.
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