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Short  Biography

Satoko Fujii

BIOGRAPHY
 
SATOKO FUJII

gFujii is clearly one of the most exciting musicians to come along in a while.h \ Robert Iannapollo, Cadence

gUnpredictable, wildly creative, and uncompromisingcFujii is an absolutely essential listen for anyone interested in the future of jazz." \ Dan McClenaghan, All About Jazz

g100 Yearsc100 Alumnih  \ Profiling New England Conservatoryfs Most Successful Alumni
 
 
Critics and fans alike hail pianist and composer SATOKO FUJII as one of the most original voices in jazz today. A truly global artist, she splits her time between Berlin and Japan and tours internationally leading several ensembles. Just as her career spans international borders, her music spans many genres, blending jazz, contemporary classical music, rock, and traditional Japanese music into an innovative synthesis instantly recognizable as hers alone. Her wide-ranging compositions can incorporate the simple melodies of folk song, the harmonic sophistication of jazz, the rhythmic power of rock, and the extended forms of symphonic composers. Although Fujiifs compositions are full of sudden shifts in direction and mood, the extremes are always part of a greater conceptual whole. As an improviser, Fujii is equally wide-ranging and virtuosic. In her solos, explosive free jazz energy mingles with delicate melodicism and a broad palette of timbre and textures.
 
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fs 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 on nearly 70 CDs as leader or co-leader in less than 20 years.  With each new recording or new band, she explores new aspects of her art.

Between 1997 and 2008, her New York trio with bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Jim Black released seven critically acclaimed CDs. Cadence magazine described the group as gBeautiful and exciting by turns, and sometimes both at once.h Jason Bivins in Signal to Noise, praised the gdynamite unith for its gimprov delirium, hot grooves, and melodic dances. In 2004 trumpeter/husband Natsuki Tamura joined this trio to form the Satoki Fujii Four, which released the critically acclaimed Live in Japan 2004 and 2006fs When We Were There.

At the same time, she and Tamura began documenting their intimate duo music. By now, the pair have made five CDs for various labels in Europe and Japan. In his four-star Down Beat review of their most recent release, Chun (2008), Ted Panken wrote, gFujiifs orchestral technique, clear chromatic lines and gprepared pianoh devices contrast effectively with Tamurafs arsenal of extended techniques which he executes with a warm, vocalized tone throughout the trumpetfs full range.h

In 2001 came the radically different Vulcan (Libra Records), an avant-rock/free jazz fusion album by a new group, the Satoko Fujii Quartet featuring Tatsuya Yoshida of the Japanese avant-rock duo, The Ruins. gThe sensibility here is aggressive to the point of primitive,h said Bill Bennett in JazzTimes. gVulcan is c a masterpiece of jazz expression.h Between 2001 and 2007, each of the Japanese quartetfs five albums, including Zephyros (Polystar, 2004) and Angelona (Libra, 2005), received equally enthusiastic approval. Toh-Kichi, her duo with the quartetfs drummer Yoshida, released CDs in 2002 and 2004.

Even as she led these disparate small ensembles, moving with equal vigor in widely divergent directions, Fujii also embarked one of the most important aspects of her career\composer, leader, and soloist with some of the most innovative large jazz ensemble of the past twenty years. In 1996, she founded Orchestra New York, which boasts the cream of New Yorkfs contemporary avant garde improvisers, including saxophonists Ellery Eskelin and Tony Malaby, trumpeters Herb Roberton and Steven Bernstein, and trombonist Curtis Hasselbring, among others. Over the course of eight albums, Fujii has greinvigorated the big-band concept for the new century – and placed herself at the forefront of the style at the same time,h according to Marc Chénard in Coda. Jordan Richardson in Blinded by Sound called their most recent release, ETO (Libra), a gpiece of big band magic.h

Orchestra Tokyo, founded a year later in 1997, draws on that cityfs best improvisers, and has recorded four CDs to date. Writing in All About Jazz, Dan McClenaghan praised the band for its gPower, exuberance, fierce soloingcmoments of beauty, serenity, delicacy interspersed with seismic Elvis Costello ePump it Upf percussion/bass modes that lead into gentle classical harmonyc Fujii is an absolutely essential listen for anyone interested in the future of jazz.h

However, Fujiifs creative ideas for large ensemble cannot be fully encompassed by a mere two big bands, and she has gone on to work with two others\Orchestra Nagoya, with which she as recorded three CDs since 2004, Orchestra Kobe. In 2006 she released an unprecedented four CDs\one by each of these orchestras\at one time. Even four orchestras is not enough for the prolific composer-improviser. At the 2013 Chicago Jazz Festival she premiered a fifth big band, the Satoko Fujii Orchestra Chicago. 

As the new century progressed, Fujii continued to establish new ensembles. In 2006 came the co-operative trio Junk Box with Tamura and percussionist John Hollenbeck.

Then in 2007, Fujii formed ma-do, a quartet included Tamura on trumpet, bassist Norikatsu Koreyasu, and Akira Horikoshi, the drummer in the Orchestra Tokyo big band. The group showcased the latest developments in her composition for small ensembles, while playing in a more intimate acoustic setting that contrasted with the high-volume, rock-influenced Quartet. They made three impressive CDs before the tragic death of bassist Koreyasu in 2012. Alan Young in Lucid Culture called their second release, Desert Ship, a gcharacteristically fascinating, emotionally varied, richly melodic one by her pretty straight-up small combo Ma-Doc. Another triumph for this extraordinary composer.h

That same year, she established yet another acoustic quartet, the Min-Yoh Ensemble with Tamura, trombonist Hasselbring, and accordionist Andrea Parkins. Dedicated to developing written and improvised music in the collective spirit of Japanese folkloric music, the band has made two CDs. Writing in All About Jazz, Budd Kopman called their debut, Fujin Raijin, ga stupendous, almost terrifying record that shatters any and all expectations during its six tracksc If any music has the ability to change onefs life, this is it, making Fujin Raijin a powerful experience in which to revel.h

In addition to leading her small and large ensembles, Fujii has also engaged in many collaborative duo projects and ad hoc groups, and appeared as a member of ensembles led by others. With violinist Carla Kihlstedt, she has made two CDs, including Minamo, which Ben Ratliff of the New York Times says gis extraordinary, a series of tight, dramatic events.h She has also released a limited edition duo recording with pianist Myra Melford, Under the Water. A meeting between Fujii and Tamura and Dutch pianist Misha Mengelberg and trumpeter Angelo Verploegen is documented on Crossword Puzzle. She has also toured and recorded with saxophonist Larry Ochsf Sax and Drum Core, and appeared on albums by drummer Jimmy Weinstein, saxophonist Raymond McDonald, and Japanese free jazz legend, trumpeter Itaru Oki. She is a regular member of Tamurafs Gato Libre quartet, in which she plays accordion, and First Meeting, and played synthesizer in his quartet between 2002 and 2004.

Fujii tours as relentlessly as she records. She has appeared live on every continent except Antarctica, performing at festivals, concert halls, and clubs. In 2013, she was honored with three nights on which to present her music at the Beilefelder Festival on Germany. In August and September of that year, she presented a week of music by several of her bands at The Stone in New York City, showcased the Satoko Fujii Orchestra Chicago which debuted at the Chicago Jazz Festival and toured the US and Canada with her international quartet Kaze.  Featuring Fujii and Tamura along with trumpeter Christian Pruvost, and drummer Peter Orins from France, Kaze has earned wide acclaim. As Virginia Schaefer said of the live show in JazzTimes, gIntense and playful, down-to-earth and international, Kaze communicates in a musical language of contrasts and continuity.h  Jon Garelick writes in Giant Steps, gKaze takes jazz abstraction to a sublime limitc. There is suspense, virtuosity, mystery, calm.h  Their debut recording Rafale (2011) earned acclaim from Mark Medwin, The New York City Jazz Record, as ga stunning achievement from note onech Their second CD Tornado (August 2013), earned similar acclaim. Jordan Richardson writes in Canadian Audiophile, gThis is invigorating music, a palette of sound that canft be plotted with ease.h And Greg Edwards of Gapplegate Music Review called it, gexhilaratingc. One of the best I've heard this year!h 

In 2013, Fujii also set off on a new musical adventure with the Satoko Fujii New Trio, featuring bassist Todd Nicholson and drummer Takashi Itani\her first piano trio since 2008. The group released their debut recording, Spring Storm, that same year.
 
Fujii tirelessly continues to explore the possibilities and expand the parameters of the many groups shefs established over the years, and there is certainly more provocative and exciting listening in store as she pursues her ultimate goal: gI would love to make music that no one has heard before.h














10/31/13







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