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gJapanese avant garde pianist Satoko Fujii embarked on a dizzying array of improvisations, but traces of Miles Davisf So What could occasionally be found in the explorations of her trumpeter, Natsuki Tamura.h  \ Chris Barton, Los Angeles Times

 gFujii veered from percussive calamity to plaintive lyricism, remaining a thoughtful improviser throughout.h
\ Kirk Silsbee, DownBeat

gThink of the Satoko Fujii Four as The Band of Nu Jazz. Here are a group of musicians whose diversity of rank produces a diversity of sounds.h \ Matthew Duersten, DownBeat

When We Were There (2006)

2006 Jazz Best CD \ CD Journal
2006 Best CD \ Kazue Yokoi, Jazz Tokyo
2007 Record Poll: Editorfs Choice \ Robert Iannapollo, Cadence
2007 Record Poll: Editorfs Choice \ Jim Santella, Cadence

gThe high point of her eight albums last year.h \ Tom Hull, The Village Voice

gJapanese pianist Satoko Fujii and husband Natsuki Tamura danced dissonantly all over When We Were There, bolstered by bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Jim Black.h \ Phil Freeman, The Village Voice

gThe players evidence the sort of communal vision youfd expect, given their shared historyc Fujiifs playing is smart and strong and her deceptively slight compositions are far more than grist for the mill. As much European-derived as jazz-influenced, the tunes bind the improvisation in a refreshingly uncontrived manner. Seldom has free music had form imposed on it more gracefully. \ Chris Kelsey, JazzTimes

gPianist Satoko Fujii and trumpeter Natsuki Tamura are staggeringly productive, and their eclecticism is almost as determined as their profligacyc When We Were There teams Fujii and Tamura with bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Jim Black for an 11-track set of remarkable concision. This disc combines its miniatures into a unified whole, then caps everything off with a truly grand finale. Itfs one of Fujiifs most satisfying releases.h \ Phil Freeman, Jazziz

gDuring the course of this one-hour performance, youfll never know which ferocious beast she unleashes or which nocturnal coleopteran she releases. Itfs thrilling and exciting.h \ Tatsuya Nagato, Jazz Life

 gThe complex yet emotionally immediate music on When We Were There certainly drives the point home that this art lives, breathes and develops. Her 11 pieces here are compactly focusedc Her long-time associates Jim Black and Mark Dresser provide the Yang and Yin interaction so essential to this kind of conversational group co-improvisation. Variegated and vibrant, Whenc reveals further beauty and detail on each repeated listening.h \ Bill Barton, Coda
gcSpirited, noisy, brash but timbrally beautiful, the music is executed with substantial skill but it is not the only trick in the bagc Satoko Fujii Four is an ensemble that wholeheartedly espouses the ethos of construction-deconstruction-reconstruction, guiding material through inventive, sometimes turbulent lifecycles whose harmonic signposts might point as much to Schoenberg as they do Cecil Taylor or David S. Warec what is more impressive is the consistently high standard she has maintained, and this engaging album is no exception to the rule.h \ Kevin Le Gendre, Jazzwise

gSo prolific and various is the Japanese pianist and bandleader that a change of direction like this one hardly comes as a surprise. Fujii has been working for years with bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Jim Black. Her partner, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, is a more recent addition to this line–up but may well have influenced the shift towards a more song-like approach, quite different to Fujiifs usual preference for long forms. Itfs her project, but very much a group affair, with Dresser and the increasingly impressive Black grabbing at ideas from the beginning and turning them on their heads with subversive grace.h \ Brian Morton, The Wire

gThis quartet is very familiar with each other, and their sympathy is evident on their multiple recordings. In many ways they constitute about as limber a modern Jazz group as you could desire, taking in multiple influences, displaying a fascinating range of techniques, and brimming with heated group creativityc Of course, the singular virtues of Fujiifs music – her love of funky counterlines, her resourcefulness in drawing out her musicians, and her instinct for color are all here. Itfs just that the gifts of these players are really allowed to shine in these compact settings.h \ Jason Bivins, Cadence

gFujiifs change in direction – a constant in her artistry – drives her to explore shorter pieces. The success of Fujiifs Four can be attributed, in part, to the melding of the four distinct personalities (and an antagonism/cooperation dynamic in play among them), as well as, in larger part, the freedom she allows her collaborators, resulting in obvious listening/responding modes. When We Were Therec proves itself a riveting listening experience for those with open ears.h \ Dan McClenaghan, All About Jazz

gWhile most of the music on When We Were There would fit into the jazz avant-garde, there are some post-bop explorations and brooding ballads along with sound explorations worthy of the Art Ensemble of Chicago and passionate free form playing. Most of the performances are concise, setting up a mood and an idea before concludingc When We Were There is a continually intriguing set of modern jazz.h \ Scott Yanow, All Music Guide

gSatoko Fujii is an innovative and fearless pianist who loves rough and tumble free jazz as much as she enjoys composing softer and more lyrical pieces. It is wonderful to hear her pick her way through atmospheric pieces and gentle ballads but she is truly thrilling when she works through more aggressive spiky numbers. Jazz lovers around the world need to start taking note of her attack – and her restraint, which is even more impressivec Mark Dresser and Jim Black are a wonderful rhythm section, and her husband, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura knows how to spin a canny web as a soloist and as a support hornc Awe-inspiring.h \ Matt Cibula, Global Rhythm

gEschewing the long-form, multi-part compositions she is known for, she (Fujii) shifts her focus towards shorter, more concise pieces on this session. Equally proficient at inside and outside techniques, Fujiifs playing ranges from driving pneumatic tone clusters to delicate neo-classical flourishesc The quartet finds the heart of each tune, exploring every challenge with knowing finesse and empathetic interplay. Bolstered by the stellar contributions of her bandmates, each tune highlights a different facet of Satoko Fujiifs writing, making When We Were There a brilliant summation of her gifts as both composer and improviser.h \ Troy Collins, All About Jazz

gFujiifs music is always filled with overwhelming power which makes me feel refreshed rather than burdened after I listen to it. This is the excitement of this music. Every bit of these four musiciansf creativity and musicality is poured into this piece of work. Each one is giving everything for the music in a gracious manner and thus thrilling collective improvisations unfold. The performance is delightfully vivid.h \ Takao Ogawa, Swing Journal

gSatoko Fujii creates tone poems on When We Were There, which her quartet uses as stepping stones to enter a world of improvised jazz. Each member, an experienced veteran, turns it loose with unexpected surprises at every corner. The dissonance and consonance of her pieces overlap, so youfre not sure whether the next phrase will proceed with lyrical charms or eerie nightmares. As with most of her recordings, this one comes highly recommended.h \ Jim Santella, All About Jazz

gWhen We Were There is an adventurous record, indeed, but quieter and less free than the opening salvo leads one to believec Are Fujii and her bandmates rewarding our short attention spans? I canft escape the feeling that youfre supposed to have to work harder for this kind of music. But neither can I shake the feeling of salutary inevitability that hangs about this fine record.h \ Jeff Dayton-Johnson, All About Jazz

gThe Four here also includes Mark Dresser on bass – electric as well as acoustic – and Jim Black on drums. When Dresser plays electric, they can generate the groove fusion promised but rarely delivered. And on acoustic, Dresserfs nimble enough to add something no matter how far out Fujii goes. The high point of an impressive year.h \ Tom Hull, Static Multimedia

Live in Japan 2004 (2005)

Top 10 CDs of the Year, 2005 \ Brian Morton, Coda

Top 10 of 2005 \ Bruce Gallanter, All About Jazz - New York

#7 in Swing Journal's 2005 Japanese Jazz Awards

Top 10 CDs of the Year, 2005 \ Mike Chamberlain, Coda and Montreal Hour

gLive in Japan is a good example of how instruments can operate outside their prescribed roles. The free-jazz interplay finds the leader/pianist pushing like a drummer, bassist Mark Dresser thumping out subtexted melodies, and percussionist Jim Black coating the action in a silvery scrim. As for trumpeter Natsuki Tamura – call him a sky-writer.h \ Jim Macnie, The Village Voice

gLive in Japan 2004 is one of [Fujiifs] best. Teamed with trumpeter (and husband) Natsuki Tamura, bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Jim Black, Fujii crafts ripe compositions that drift from structured melody to open-ended abstraction. The centerpiece, the 36-minute gIllusion Suiteh is a tour de force. Here, Fujiifs sharp chords and cascading runs recall Cecil Taylor and her former teacher Paul Bley, as they pull Tamurafs breathy tones through cycles of heavy activity and subtle restraint. But the pointed power of Black and the winding range of Dresser make the remainder of the album just as transfixingch \ Marc Masters, JazzTimes

gSatoko Fujiifs intense, complex music is well represented by gNinepin,h the opening piece on Satoko Fujii Fourfs excellent gLive in Japan 2004.h c it moves from pulsing mystery to noisy chaos, from harsh dissonance to spry unison piano-and-trumpet melodies, without ever losing intensity. There is a Gerschwinesque sense of motion to Fujiifs best music that makes a listener want to take every bit of the journey with her.h \ Danny Hooley, The News & Observer

g4-stars. Composer and pianist Satoko Fujiifs music isnft totally free, but itfs far from tetheredc lyrical, dramatic, highly charged trio and quartet dialogues as notable for their sustained focus as they are for their variety of mood and sensitive management of changes of emotional climate and texturesc outstandingch \ Ray Comiskey, Irish Times

gFujii explores the keyboard with fury and finesse. Shefs able to express a wide range of emotions and does so with clarityc Each player is as free as a bird, and nothing holds them back. Live in Japan 2004 comes highly recommended for its universal appeal, its accessibility, and its rhythmic grooves.h \ Jim Santella, All About Jazz

gIf youfre open to the possibilities of freedom from melody and straight-ahead rhythms, Fujii and company certainly know how to take you through the journey.h \ Kyle OfBrien, Jazz Scene

gcThe Fujii-Dresser-Black trio, partners for about eight years, clearly enjoy the addition of Tamurac gIllusion Suiteh, the title track and centerpiece of the triofs last record, enjoys another reading here, without Tamura. A dizzying (in a good way) ride, the group saunters, sputters, whirls, and glides through Fujiifs 36-minute road map of mutable avenues that demonstrates why this group continues to be so exciting even after six releasesc Tamura brings an arguably different aesthetic to the table on Live in Japan 2004, but it is a welcome addition that expands this astonishing triofs immense range.h \ Dennis González, One Final Note

gLive in Japan adds to [Fujiifs] longstanding trio of bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Jim Black, [trumpeter] Natsuki Tamurac The growth of the group (in its size and lexicon) is apparent especially because the four pieces in the set – recorded live at Egg Farm in Japan in July of 2004 – have all been recorded previously by Fujiic As an undivided whole, the set gave room for segments of deep improv along with familiar themes and some romantic melodicism á la Fujiifs former teacher Paul Bley...h \ Kurt Gottschalk, All About Jazz New York
 gThese four people who join together here are pushing forward the possibility of their instruments like demons.  They are listening to each other with big ears to capture the slightest sound and making individual outright statements at the same time.  Throughout their performance, they are making points about the importance of pulling their own voices out of their individual instruments.  I am excited by the unexpected way of the evolution of their performance and the abrupt insertions of cool riffs make me feel like punching the air.  How funky they sound!  There are beautiful contrasts of silence and noise, and melancholy and sweat.  Ifll call down the people who would try to label this music just as gfree jazz!h \ Kazunori Harada, Music Magazine

gJudging from the members, it could be a great free jazz performance. But in fact they are well in control of themselves and donft play excessive notes. This should be a rare kind of jazz that can keep attracting the attention of the audience with such a serene performance.h \ Ariake Tosa, Studio Voice

g All the listeners will surely be overwhelmed by the great sense of speed in the rhythmic evolution, rapid changes of dynamism, whispering conversations in the silence, melting sound, and improvisations that sound like conversations between musicians in an unbelievably tense environment.h \Yasuhiro Yoshigaki, Rhythm and Drums Magazine

gcLive in Japan 2004 provides eloquent testimony to the fact that Fujii is rapidly becoming a major creative force, with an identity thatfs all her own.h \ Alexander Varty, The Georgia Straight
g They are not performing in a chaotic gso-called free jazzh way, but they are listening to each other with big ears, trying to capture the right moment to give the impact in the most effective way.  These ascetic attitudes make them look very cool.  Fujiifs performance, stimulated by Blackfs pulsive drumming and Dresserfs fat and deep sounding bass, is remarkable especially in terms of the parts played by her vigorous left hand.  This album is well worth listening to carefully.h \ Koji Murai, CD Journal

 gThey are putting fragments of different styles of music into solidly constructed compositions which are unusual for free jazz.  You can also hear some rondos and funk in them.  And they are trying to include all the stuff to make complete musical pieces in their unique experimental, uncompromising and ascetic way.h \ Tatsuya Nagato, Jazz Life

 gTheir resolution to play anything fearlessly until the end are cool.  The trio is trying to spread out and, on the contrary, Natsuki Tamurafs trumpet is trying to tie the entire music together.  In this way, they are balancing with each other quite well.h \ Jun Numata, Rock Gaho

gAlthough Fujiifs effort to work as a bridge not only among all parts of Japan but also between the eastern world and the western world is always worth paying attention, her ability as a bandleader is prominent on this album: she gives spaces for all the other members to express themselves as soloists and at the same time controls the entire piece of music.  A so-called neat piano trio wouldnft behave like that.h \ Mari Nanabu, Intoxicate

Projects Reviews
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