Pianist Satoko Fujii’s Min-Yoh Ensemble takes its name from the Japanese term for folk music, but Watershed doesn’t sound like any kind of typical folk song, Japanese or otherwise. The pianist, husband/trumpeter Natsuki Tamura and trombonist Curtis Hasselbring regroup with accordion wiz Andrea Parkins for music that begins with intense free improvisation and then builds into composed structures.
The instrumentation might seem sparse on paper, but this group gets a full sound: Both brassmen play with extended techniques, and Parkins’ approach to her instrument often combines its traditional sound with a Farfisa organ. On “Whitewater” she begins with a wheezing feedback sound in duet with Tamura’s trumpet; “Takeda no Komoriuta,” one of the three traditional folk melodies on the album, evolves from turbulent noise into a piano and trumpet duet that shows off the tender side of both players. The blend of music and players from different eras and countries makes this the most fascinating of Fujii’s new albums.