The well-educated composer/pianist Satoko Fujii is the recipient of many industry-related awards while accumulating a fairly significant track record in modern jazz circles whether she’s performing free-improvisation within the traditional piano trio format or here with a 15-piece ensemble. In Japanese, Jo translates into “beginning”, which to some extent may serve as a paradigm for the manifestation of this rather ambitious project.
Along with an excellent supporting cast that includes trumpeter Jack Walrath, woodwind specialist Briggan Krauss, bassist Stomu Takeishi and others of note, Ms. Fujii receives the exemplary support required to actualize her acute visualizations through cunningly artistic compositions. The tile track, “Jo” features grand orchestrations, abrupt diversions, Stomu Takeishi’s probing bass lines, frenzied horns, recurring themes and mood evoking charts. Ms Fujii’s composition titled, “Okesa~Yansado” boasts an Oriental flavor amid dark horn choruses along with a touch of reverb that casts a slightly ominous spell over the proceedings. The woodwind section integrates skittish lines into Middle Eastern themes on “Jasper” while “Around The Corner” consists of boisterous free-jazz dialogue and ethnocentric percussion interludes as no two compositions are alike.
Jo is invigorating, thoughtful and quite entertaining. With this and other projects of equal interest in the works, it would be a sure bet that Satoko Fujii’s already noteworthy presence in jazz will become more prominent. Here, Ms. Fujii successfully pioneers the integration of multinational motifs with jazz-based harmonies and arrangements while exploring new vistas along the way. * * * *
Oscar Noriega; Alto Sax, Bass Clarinet: Briggan Krauss; Alto Sax: Chris Speed; Tenor Sax, Clarinet: David Castiglione; Tenor & Soprano Sax: Mike Sim; Baritone Sax: Jack Walrath; Trumpet: Dave Ballou; Trumpet: Natsuki Tamura; Trumpet: Joe Fiedler; Trombone: Curtis Hasselbring; Trombone: Joey Sellers; Trombone: Satoko Fujii; Piano: Stomu Takeishi; Bass: Aaron Alexander; Drums