Sunday, August 7, 2016

Satoko Fujii Orchestra Berlin – Ichigo Ichie (2015)

Satoko Fujii Orchestra Berlin

Satoko Fujii - piano
Matthias Schubert - tenor saxophone
Gebhard Ullmann - tenor saxophone
Paulina Owczarek - baritone saxophone
Natsuki Tamura - trumpet
Richard Koch - trumpet
Nikolaus Neuser - trumpet 
Matthias Müller - trombone
Kazuhisa Uchihashi - guitar
Jan Roder - bass
Michael Griener - drums
Peter Orins - drums

Ichigo Ichie

LIBRA 212-037

By Adam Baruch

Japanese pianist/composer/bandleader Satoko Fujii is one of the most prolific and active international Jazz icons, leading several versions of an Orchestra, located in several cities around the globe in addition to several small ensembles. This album is a recording by the Orchestra Berlin, a twelve piece band that comprises mostly of German musicians, but also includes Fujii and her husband, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, French drummer Peter Orins and Polish saxophonist Paulina Owczarek. It presents the four parts suite that gives the album its title and one additional piece, all composed by Fujii.

The music of Fujii is always full of innovation and groundbreaking steps towards expanding the boundaries of Jazz music, and this everlasting process of search is her trademark. But she also composes great melodic vistas, which in an orchestral environment like this one reach a climatic climax. The individual solo performances by the orchestra members lead to full orchestral passages, which define the overall structure of the music. Fujii carefully seeks out some of the most daring Jazz performers to become members of her various teams, and the level of the individual statements on this album is a great illustration of such a collection of incredible talents.

The music is in many respects a continuation of the great European Jazz Orchestras of the late 1960s, starting with the British outfits led by Mike Westbrook and continental ensembles like Globe Unity Orchestra, brought up to date with contemporary compositional language. Fujii manages to push the orchestral idiom to its limits time after time, and this album is no different.

Of course every true Jazz fan knows, either if he admits it or not, that there is nothing remotely as powerful aesthetically and emotionally as a full orchestra sound, and listening to this album clearly points that out. The wonderful tension created between the solos, duets and other chamber units formed within the orchestra and the entire band playing together is the secret weapon of this music and every moment of it is absolutely priceless.

Of course this is by far not an easy musical experience, and a trained ear and open-mindedness should definitely be assumed by the potential listener. The reward is of course proportional to the effort needed to grasp the intricacy and internal beauty of this music. Definitely highly recommended!

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