Friday, November 16, 2018

Fujii’s October Album Combines CD and DVD

courtesy of Braithwaite & Katz Communications

The October release in jazz pianist Satoko Fujii’s “Kanreki Cycle,” a twelve-month series to honor the year of her 60th birthday, features a newly formed quartet called “Amu.” Three of the members of that quartet had joined forces on the June installation of the series, 1538, Fujii herself, her husband Natsuki Tamura on trumpet, and Takashi Itani on percussion. The fourth member distinguishes the group as an innovative ensemble. Her name is Mizuki Wildenhahn (shown on the cover of the album); and she is a “percussive dancer,” meaning that the sounds she elicits through her dancing are de facto musical contributions to the pieces being performed.

As a result Libra Records is releasing this new album, Weave, in a package containing both a CD and a DVD, using the latter to demonstrate the relationship between Wildenhahn’s dancing and her musical contributions to the Amu quartet. As usual, is oblivious to the CD, the DVD, or the dual package. So, once again, I find myself directing readers to the CD Store Web page on the Web site for Libra Records.

I must confess that I have mixed emotions about this project, simply because there is so much to seize the attention of the serious listener in Fujii’s work that the mere presence of a dancer runs the risk of being distracting, even if she is contributing to the object of the listening experience. Personally, I am much more interested in the intensity of energy across the seven tracks on this album (the last of which is a “bonus track”). Perhaps this emerged as a reaction to Wildenhahn’s movements: The intensity summoned by the other three members of the quartet may have been a result of their own physical energy being injected into their music-making.

Indeed, in the first track, “Megosona,” there is a duo exchange between Fujii and Itani that seems to have more to do with physical exertion than with motifs and their development. Furthermore, that physical intensity seems to be contagious. After the duo work seems to rise to a climax, Tamura enters to make the case that the level of intensity can be pushed even higher.

Mind you, this may reflect a personal bias on my part. Given a choice between listening and watching, I tend to prefer listening without the visual channel getting in the way. This may be a narrow point of view; but, when one takes into account not only the intensity of the energy of the players but also the highly imaginative diversity of technique they bring to their respective instruments, there is more than enough to serve up a richly imaginative listening experience. To the extent that the other three instrumentalists are responding to the percussive side of Wildenhahn’s performance, I can only say that you cannot argue with success; but I am likely to remain set in my ways of preferring the stimuli of the sounds themselves.

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