Stone by Satoko Fujii


Satoko Fujii | Stone
Libra Records (CD)

Celebrating her sixtieth birthday, Japanese pianist/composer Satoko Fujii releases her latest, Stone. She presents fifteen mostly short pieces here with a ton of atmosphere and named for the elements and natural phenomena. Her playing is sparse and the setting is quite ambient. The notes slightly tickle ones perception (defy) of what jazz can be. The cadences are spacious, full of an abstract grace and extended chords that begin to sound like some contemporary drone. In the process of making the recording she shared “at the end of those twelve months, I had an even clearer idea of what I wanted to do next. It was as if a fuzzy image in my mind had come into sharp focus. I made this solo recording right around the time the fuzziness began to clear up.”

This sense of becoming clearer is repeated in various locations through the course of Stone. Notes are stretched, and shortened, moving fluidly, blossoming almost like the way in which a tuning fork is used to define pitch. In this way as the tones linger, other otic contours come into focus. Fujii makes her way through a track like Biotite with quivering effects and tinkering with the innards of her instrument. Yet there are incredibly tender moments along the way, through the experimental texturing.

On the whole the composer once again proves she has full control of arrangements, melodic or obscure, and the conceptual balance between which is the most notable – especially when she makes references, however scant, to the traditional folk music of her country. Serene and patient, there is plenty of attention paid to space and minimal orchestration.  Phonolite tweaks the various depths of a piano to sound like the screetch of bird calls with a guise of strange suspense. Fujii brings the drama.

The random flourishes of quickly fingered piano strings on Piemontite Schist (moving right into Chlorite) add more to make this energized like a good thriller unfolding. Fujii uses pausing techniques that deliver something emotive, almost theatrical in its simplicity and bold punctuation. Some tracks are similar (Phonolite and Sand Stone) and others are solemn and a bit moody like Ice Waterfall, which does incorporate trickling keys until a torrent of rumbling grows and dissipates. In the final piece, Eternity, the listener is once again treated to an extended linear, chordal pitch that pierces. These last passages are a bit melancholic, a bit hopeful, mixed of emotion with a nod to stage/screen as the lights slowly dim. #endscene

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