The Squid's Ear Magazine

Fujii, Satoko: Hazuki (Libra)

With the sudden cessation of touring due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Satoko Fujii turned to composing and recording herself in a home studio that she developed with the help of sound engineer Mike Marciano, freeing herself to explore new compositional methods and approaches to theory, this superb solo album the results of seven months of sublime self-expression.

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Includes 6 page foldout insert with text by Satoko Fujii describing the intent of the album and detailing each piece. Text in English & Japanese.

UPC: 4562162308630

Label: Libra
Catalog ID: 201-063
Squidco Product Code: 30137

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2021
Country: Japan
Packaging: Cardboard Gatefold
Recorded at her home in Kobe city, Japan, in August, 2020.


Satoko Fujii-piano

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Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"Pianist-composer Satoko Fujii normally spends months on the road each year, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made touring impossible. On her new solo album, Hazuki, she lets the music travel for her. Throughout the course of the pandemic, Fujii has remained committed to her creativity and artistic growth and determined to present her music, even if she can't do it before a live audience. Recorded at home in her piano practice room, Hazuki is buoyant in the face of adversity, playfully imaginative, and as adventurous as all her albums typically are. It is one of her most delightful and engaging solo outings.

Recording from home did present one advantage for Fujii. "I have been playing my piano for more than 45 years. We know each other well," she says. "I never expected that I would record on it, but the COVID-19 situation forced me into doing it. On tour, I play a different piano at each concert. Sometimes I 'meet' annoying pianos, sometimes I 'meet' really great pianos. It's a gamble. But I have to tell you that it is easy for me to play my piano because I already know it very well."

The mental preparation for recording in the apartment she shares with her husband, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, presented an unexpected challenge. "When I'm on tour, I get in a touring mode. But being at home is being in daily life mode. I had to concentrate to get myself in "making music mode" in the middle of my daily life. For instance, when I did my streaming concerts, I went into the piano room and performed and after I came out from the room, which is very close to the kitchen, Natsuki was cooking! It was a very strange feeling."

Perhaps the most challenging circumstance was a physical one. "I recorded the album in August," Fujii says. "The weather was extremely hot, in the 90s. I don't have an air conditioner in my piano room, and I need to close the door so the sound doesn't disturb the neighbors. So in the small piano room, I was sweating. I put an ice pad on my neck and that helped a bit." She commemorates these arduous conditions in the title of the album-"Hazuki" is an old Japanese word for "August."

What emerged from these unusual conditions is one of Fujii's most diverse and ebullient solo albums. "Invisible" starts out the album with some of her most imaginative and varied playing inside the piano alternating with a haunting keyboard phrase. She then begins altering the phrase, repeating it with most variations and embellishing it. The music is lively, but deliberately developed. On "Hoffen" (German for "hope"), she also delves inside the piano, seamlessly integrating piano wires and keyboard in delicate melodies that grow more lyrical and rhapsodic. "Quarantined" develops a natural flow of long weaving lines interrupted by knots of dense chords. "Beginning" is similar, with a long sinuous right-hand line punctuated by occasional left-hand chords that throw kinks in it.

Some of the compositions play around with musical ideas. "Cluster" puns on the term for an occurrence of disease outbreaks called "corona clusters" and the musical device of note clusters, the striking of several notes that are close together. The performance is built of ringing note clusters carefully placed so the overtones created become part of the music. It's intensely concentrated with every gesture furthering the creation of a unique musical vocabulary. When she composed "Expanding," Fujii deliberately limited the notes and intervals she could use as a way to create a new vocabulary. The dramatic performance stays focused on short, rhythmically charged phrases that build tension and momentum."

Includes 6 page foldout insert with text by Satoko Fujii describing the intent of the album and detailing each piece. Text in English & Japanese.

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Artist Biographies

"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 (

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Track Listing:

1. Invisible 7:07

2. Quarantined 8:02

3. Cluster 4:19

4. Hoffen 9:05

5. Beginning 2:15

6. Ernesto 6:39

7. Expanding 7:42

8. Twenty Four Degrees 3:12

Related Categories of Interest:

Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
Piano & Keyboards
Solo Artist Recordings
Asian Improvisation & Jazz
Satoko Fujii & Natsuki Tamura's Libra Label
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