June 19 # Satoko Fujii ma-do # Sala Rossa
SATOKO FUJII MA-DO
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 band-leader who gets the best collaborators to deliver,” says John Fordham in The Guardian. In concert and on over 35 albums as a leader or co-leader, the Tokyo resident synthesizes jazz, contemporary classical, avant-rock and Japanese folk music into an innovative music instantly recognizable as hers alone.
Since she burst onto the scene 11 years ago after earning her graduate diploma from the New England Conservatory of Music, Fujii has led some of the most consistently creative ensembles in modern improvised music. Her trio with bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Jim Black has released five albums, all of which earned places in critics’ year-end Top 10 lists. In 2001, she debuted an electrifying avant-rock quartet featuring Takeharu Hayakawa, Tatsuya Yoshida, and Natsuki Tamura, and their high-energy CDs were hailed by listeners worldwide. Fujii has also established herself as one of the world’s leading composers for large jazz ensembles. Since 1996, she has released a steady stream of acclaimed releases for large ensemble, culminating in 2006 when she simultaneously released four big band albums: one from her New York ensemble, and one each by three different Japanese bands. In addition to playing accordion in her husband trumpeter Natsuki Tamura’s Gato Libre quartet, she also performs in a duo with Tamura, as an unaccompanied soloist, and in ad hoc groupings with musicians working in different genres. Her special projects have included collaborations with ROVA saxophone quartet, violinist Carla Kihlstedt, pianist Myra Melford, and Junk Box, a collaborative trio with Tamura and percussionist John Hollenbeck. Since 2008, she has been a regular member of saxophonist-composer Larry Ochs’ Sax and Drumming Core. “Whether performing with her orchestra, combo, or playing solo piano, Satoko Fujii points the listener towards the future of music itself rather than simply providing entertainment,” writes Junichi Konuma in Asahi Graph. She tours regularly appearing at festivals and clubs in the U.S., Canada, Japan, and Europe. Her ultimate goal: “I would love to make music that no one has heard before.”
This band’s name, like it’s music, has many layers. Ma-do means “window” in Japanese. But “ma” also means “the silence between notes.” Fujii chose the name to show how the music opens to the outside (just like window) and that silence can have more meaning than notes. In an acoustic setting, the group’s absorbing improvisations explore subtle textures and tone colors, using silence and group interaction to build brilliant collages of sound, melody, and rhythm.
“For a small group, ma-do sounds utterly huge, and that’s a testament not only to Fujii’s writing and technical skill, but also to her cohorts – swirling and unruly at one moment, deft and wiry the next punchy and rollicking another, their empathy astounding.” – Clifford Allen
They have released two albums, Heat Wave (2008) et Desert Ship (2010).