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Yuko Fujiyama Quartet: Re-Entry

Pianist Yuko Fujiyama was well into her 40s when she led her first recording, the recommendable Tag (CIMP), a ’98 trio program with violinist Mark Feldman and cellist Tomas Ulrich. Given Fujiyama’s considerable lyricism and responsiveness in minimally structured settings, a follow-up was obviously in order, which, given CIMP’s rate of production, could have been recorded and released within weeks, if not days. In CIMP time, two years is an eternity, but the wait was worthwhile. On Re-entry, a quartet program with trumpeter Roy Campbell, bassist Wilber Morris and drummer Reggie Nicholson, Fujiyama reveals a new muscularity that enhances her already engaging approach.

On several occasions on this frequently high-energy set, Fujiyama ignites well-honed materials with explosive power and pinpoint precision. But that’s not her rarest, most remarkable asset. Beginning with the set-opener, “Synaesthesis 1,” Fujiyama proves to be a consummate accompanist; there are remarkably few working with a Taylor-inspired lexicon. She not only supplies a cohesive bond for the quartet while incrementally ratcheting up the intensity, but also simultaneously provokes Campbell to create a solo that is as inventive as it is oddly arced. As the program unfolds, revealing a variety of strategies to join materials and emphasize relationships within the quartet, it becomes apparent that Fujiyama’s comping prowess is an extension of her aesthetic as a composer-arranger (which, on the basis of the odd-man-out “Repetition,” seems also nominally inspired by early minimalism).

Throughout the program, Campbell, Morris and Nicholson are repeatedly spurred on by Fujiyama. Her cascading clusters and low-register jabs trigger forceful waves of sound on several tracks, particularly the title composition. But her thoughtfully couched, off-speed phrasing also prompts careful, considered replies. As a result, the album has only one real miscue, that being the game cameo of producer Robert Rusch, who recites a translated Shuntaro Tanikawa poem as if it is the least of several painful options.

In all, a successful Re-entry for Yuko Fujiyama.

Originally Published