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Satoko Fujii Four: Live in Japan

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Pianist and composer Satoko Fujii has released over 20 albums in the past decade, and Live in Japan 2004 is one of her 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 “Illusion Suite,” is a tour de force. Here, Fujii’s sharp chords and cascading runs recall Cecil Taylor and her former mentor Paul Bley, as they pull Tamura’s 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, especially the masterful closer “An Insane Scheme,” which mixes hair-raising sections of near silence with dramatic, pulse-quickening explosions.

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