Satoko Fujii’s Orchestra Chicago
The wildly prolific, galvanic Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii has been pushing at the borders of free jazz and contemporary classical music for several decades, creating fast-moving, often turbulent sounds that shift easily between fury and calm. Earlier in her career she studied with the great American pianist Paul Bley—a musician who uses generous space in his work—but there’s no question that the explosive Cecil Taylor seems like a stronger influence on her playing. She brings it to bear with ominous, hammering bass figures, dissonant clusters, and ferocious energy, whether she’s playing with American drummers like Jim Black and John Hollenbeck or the well-regarded Japanese drummer Tatsuya Yoshida of Ruins fame.
Fujii often leads fiery trios and quartets, but some of her most imaginative and enduring work has been written for large groups, where she brings a suite-like conception to even the shortest pieces, meticulously constructing the arrangements and the sequence of solos given to her groups. Over the years she’s put together some especially powerful New York-based orchestras with players like Ellery Eskelin, Tony Malaby, Herb Robertson, Oscar Noriega, and Andy Laster, among others, so it’s particularly exciting to imagine what sounds she’ll get from the first-time meeting of her Orchestra Chicago—it’s only her second to visit here ever. Her French-Japanese working quartet KAZE will collaborate with some of the city’s best improvisers, including saxophonists Dave Rempis, Ernest Dawkins and Keefe Jackson, trombonist Jeb Bishop, trumpeter Corey Wilkes, bassist Kent Kessler, guitarist John McLean, and percussionist Michael Zerang.