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Satoko Fujii Orchestra Tokyo: Peace (Tribute to Kelly Churko) (Libra)

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Satoko Fujii Orchestra Tokyo: Peace (Tribute to Kelly Churko)
Satoko Fujii Orchestra Tokyo: Peace (Tribute to Kelly Churko)

The fifth album by Satoko Fujii’s Orchestra Tokyo is an exercise in contradictions and surprises. First, the title. Peace is anything but peaceful. But the album is dedicated to Kelly Churko, a guitarist and composer who had been part of Orchestra Tokyo; he died in 2014, at the age of 36. Then there’s the fact that Fujii, a powerhouse of a pianist, does not touch an instrument on Peace. Instead she composed three of the four pieces and conducts the now-16-piece band, which includes three members of her quartet Kaze.

The opening number, “2014,” traverses wide terrain over 33 minutes. It begins with trumpeter Christian Pruvost blowing air through his horn for three minutes. For the next half hour, the music shifts—sometimes seamlessly, sometimes abruptly—through what feel like movements of a suite. Some of it is melodic, some funky, some noisy and tempestuous, and some bizarre—such as the segment in which musicians growl and mutter into their horns. “2014” is captivating.

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