Reviews

IN THE NEWS

Fujii’s CDs – Best of the Year – DownBeat, Jazziz, Coda, Playboy Japan, Cadence, Swing Journal, NPR Jazz Critics Poll, Music Magazine, Philadelphia City Paper, CD Journal, American Reporter, All About Jazz, Orange County Register, Village Voice, Jazz Weekly

One of 2019’s top artists in Big Band, Arranger, Composer and Piano categories – 67th DownBeat Annual Critics Poll 

“…one of the most original pianists in free jazz…” ― Steve Greenlee, Boston Globe

“…the Ellington of free jazz.” – Cadence Magazine

“What’s more amazing about Satoko Fujii‘s over eighty albums as a bandleader – that virtually all of them are worth owning? Or that she reached that epic number in about twenty years? It’s hard to imagine another artist building such a vast and consistently excellent, often transcendent body of work over that timeline… Fujii is simply one of the most important composers of our time.” ― Alan Young, New York Music Daily

“This fine improvising pianist gets better with every album… ” ― Richard Gehr, Village Voice

“Composer Satoko Fujii is at the forefront of Japan’s contemporary jazz movement…” ― The World, Public Radio International/BBC

“An improviser of rumbling intensity and generous restraint, Satoko Fujii sometimes plays the piano in dense, clustered runs or heavily-packed, dark-hued harmonies. Elsewhere, she plays the instrument like a drum, rapping a sparse rhythm on the side of the instrument’s body and plucking its dampened strings from the inside.” – Giovanni Russonello, New York Times

“She could be the most important creative musician of our time.” ― Michael Nastos, AllMusic

“A virtuoso piano improviser, an original composer and a band-leader who gets the best collaborators to deliver.” ― John Fordham, The Guardian

“Unpredictable, wildly creative, and uncompromising… Fujii is an absolutely essential listen for anyone interested in the future of jazz.” ― Dan McClenaghan, All About Jazz

“Over the decades, Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii has demonstrated uncanny power and musicality as a considerable force in the avant-garde end of the jazz spectrum. At once an assertive and keenly conversational player, she readily adapts to varied settings…This music is infused with a wide-open spirit.” — Josef Woodard, DownBeat 

“This remarkable quartet held great promise on paper but the level to which they surpassed expectations is pondered even today. A remarkable flurry of intense rhythms and cataclysmic piano that gelled together wondrously, this set may well go down as the greatest in Guelph Jazz Festival history.” ― Echo Weekly

“Fujii is an instrumentalist in the joyfully aggressive mode of Cecil Taylor.  She can tear into even the most deftly packaged melody the way a child tears into a brightly wrapped birthday present: headlong, hungry, unstoppable…” ― William Stephenson, Jazziz

“She is a genius.”  – John Payne, Bluefat

 “Fujii and Tamura offer unsentimental beauty, space, silence and humour… Proof that improvised music can be emotionally engaging as well as ear tickling, Fujii and Tamura give us six clouds, all with a solid silver lining.” ― Peter Marsh, BBC Music Magazine

“Fujii, as a composer, often emerges out of near silence, patiently building her ideas like muscle and tissue; unflinching and animated…The music rattles the bones as often as it soothes the soul and no composer is more masterful at balancing and grounding those extremes…continually absorbing and unlike anything else.” – Karl Ackermann, All About Jazz

“Fujii’s music is often rich in symbolism and mysticism. It’s what enriches the experience of her music; and what makes her something of a musical samurai…The works attain a level of beauty that is beyond the limits of anything written or improvised.” – Raul da Gama, Jazz da Gama

“This is the sound of genuine discovery, founded upon decades of experience but unfettered by habit.” – Bill Meyer, Dusted Magazine

“I often find that Ms. Fujii is more a magician or sorceress, as much as she is a musician.” – Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery

 “Seldom has free music had form imposed upon it more gracefully.” ― Chris Kelsey, JazzTimes

“In concert and on more than 80 albums as a leader or co-leader, she synthesizes jazz, contemporary classical, avant-rock, and Japanese folk music into an innovative music instantly recognizable as hers alone.” – Valery Amador, Bass Musician Magazine

“[Fukushima is] one of the most formally successful, most poignant and meaningful works of the of the current Century.” – Aldo Gianolio, Audio Review (Italy)

“a tour de force of unfettered expression…” – John Sharpe, The New York City Jazz Record

“It’s difficult to find another composer like Fujii who can write improvised music for a large ensemble so well and I doubt that there ever will be.” – Nick Davies, London Jazz News

“Satoko is truly one of the few great originals on the piano today.” – Luigi Santosuosso, All About Jazz Italia

“In jazz from Ellington on, composition has entailed predetermining solo sequences ― knowing

in advance not just whom to call on to sustain an established mood, but who can be trusted to anticipate what comes next.  This is where Fujii excels…” ― Francis Davis, Village Voice

“…the Japanese pianist-composer currently leads four separate jazz orchestras in different cities, each evincing a distinct character… Fujii has all the requisite skills to arrange for large groups, and in her writing she references predecessors from Thad Jones to Carla Bley; to bring the full picture into focus, add in such elements as the manic melodicism of Frank Zappa, drum rhythms from Japanese taiko, and thickly entwined multiple improvisations (a la Sun Ra)…” ― Neil Tesser, Jazz Journalists Association

 “Fujii’s writing, sweaty and mischievous, was undoubtedly the best thing about this year’s Rovate…”  ― Tom Dill, Signal To Noise 

“After the gig I reported what I had just experienced to a friend of mine on the pay phone in the station for two hours, and missed the last train.” ― Takayuki Mihoshi, Jazz Critique

“Stockhausen’s landmark Telemusik exhibits a quality of simultaneous speed and stasis and the same could be said of pianist Satoko Fujii…her music is imbued with space, thick connective tissues it would be incomplete to label silences.”  – Marc Medwin, New York City Jazz Record

“Energy – notably a powerful, two-fisted attack on the keys – is just one of the compelling qualities of Fujii’s chameleon-like musical presence.” ― Derk Richardson, San Francisco Chronicle

“Satoko Fujii negotiates the path between Cecil Taylor’s hyper-kinetic dissonance and more meditative styles of piano players like Randy Weston and Abdullah Ibrahim… Fujii transforms jazz into something architectural, full of designed shapes that jut and jab at the silence of an enclosed space.” ― Michael Kramer, New York Times  

 “Fujii’s orchestra was almost completely drawn from the ranks of NYC band leaders… the feel oozed from 40’s ballroom to James Bond-esque themes to marching fanfares to horror flick soundtracks to polka to Globe Unity Orchestra maelstroms… Oddly democratic for such a group, Fujii and her cast of luminaries weren’t the stars, rather the resultant music was.” ― Andrey Henkin, All About Jazz New York

“Part free jazz a la Zorn, part experimental rock, Satoko’s improvisatory collection is wonderfully chaotic, percussive and dissonant… Whether she’s furiously smacking the piano around or gently caressing harmonies out of it, Satoko uses the full tonal and dynamic range of the instrument, and it’s an exhilarating thing to hear.  ” ― Michael Gallant, Keyboard Magazine

“Her music can’t get much closer to improvisational music perfection…” – Victor Aaron, Something Else!

 “The notes just flow from her soul through her hands, all the beauty, colorful imagery, and subtle magical crystalline tones are there…. Fujii, with much feeling and emotion at many levels, makes the case that she doesn’t just play the piano, she truly is the piano.” – Peter Thelen, Expose

“…beautiful, cinematic, the aural equivalent to technicolor… a wonderful odyssey in sound.”

 — Dave Wade, WMPG Radio

 “Fujii is a consummately flexible pianist, with her output encompassing a wide expanse of rock, jazz, and classically oriented works.” – Mike Borella, Avant Music News

“As a pianist, Fujii can be a force of nature… For the uninitiated she can evoke powerful Cecil Taylor and Don Pullen; Fujii also embodies the oblique lyricism and delicate touch of Myra Melford (with whom she’s duetted) and Matthew Shipp….Fujii’s output features sublimely lyrical and emotionally directly playing…heartily recommended.” – Mark Keresman, JazzEd Magazine

“The sheer force and raw power that was summoned at an instant was ear boggling… Her sense of history and respect for the past, in addition to her bright eye towards the future is something to behold both on record and, especially, live… the night eventually came to an end to a solid and immediate standing ovation. Don’t miss Fujii next time she comes around.” ― Laurence Donohue-Greene, All About Jazz – New York

“The New York Orchestra is as sharp as a box of switchblades.” ― Duncan Heining, Jazzwise

“Since the beginning, Fujii has delighted in the shock of startling juxtapositions, whether they arrive via violent tonal shifts, alarming explosions of unexpected noise, stark stillnesses or bracing serrated melodic lines. Her music draws equally from the tightrope-walking invention of free improvisation and the arcane navigations of contemporary classical music, employing visceral textures, pointillist eruptions and severe beauty in an audaciously searching collage…. a fierce dedication to endless surprise.” –Shaun Brady, Jazziz

“She is as free as a bird. She is motivated to be involved in various kinds of music just out of her own playfulness, curiosity and creativity. There don’t seem to be many artists whose instincts are as healthy as hers.” ― Eisuke Sato, CD Journal

“One might liken Fujii to Charles Mingus, Graham Collier, Carla Bley or Sun Ra for adventurousness and intensity, but her music is distinctive, standing alongside those other explorers, not in their shadow.” – Barry Witherden, Jazz Journal (UK)

“Fujii is one of the most prolific recording artists of her time…. she’s so good… creates an enormous amount of drama and joy.”  – Steve Feeney, The Arts Fuse

“Takes jazz abstraction to a sublime limit. … There is suspense, virtuosity, mystery, calm.” – Jon Garelick, Giant Steps

“Satoko Fujii is a brilliant and inspiring jazz genius.” – Travis Rogers Jr., The Jazz Owl

“…sounds that elevate, startle and thrill.” ― Jerry D’Souza, All About Jazz

 “…the music gently flows through its often lyrical adventures. Her playing has such command and logic it would seem to me any deviation from the standard approach is simply there for added self-challenge.” – Robert Rusch, Cadence

“Persistent and inexhaustible imagination with emotion, power and everything else…[Fujii] does not leave a single second to be bored or indifferent.” – Phontas Troussas, Vinylmine

“Fujii exhibits a kind of boundless exploration… She never plays the piano simply, or plainly, for that matter. In Fujii’s music, there is always something more, always another phrase, another pause, another scrape or crackle or minor to reveal itself, in due time.” – Lee Rice Epstein, The Free Jazz Collective

“…listening to Fujii at work has been a journey of discovery, as compelling as it is delightful.” – Stephen Smoliar, The Rehearsal Studio

“Fujii employs pretty much every method of eliciting sounds from all parts of the piano… Even playing conventionally she is adept at creating magical, unfamiliar sounds that can stimulate your sense of wonder and affect your emotions with a passage of sheer beauty or majesty.” – Barry Witherden, Jazz Journal (UK)

“Fujii uses just about every part of the piano, from strings to the wood, even putting paper between the strings… she is gorgeously elegiac… Creative and intuitive.” – George Harris, Jazz Weekly

“Emboldened, unbridled hell raisers.  A set of free jazz that’s a wild ride for even Fujii, this is the gold standard for listeners that want their improv jazz taken to the max.​” – Chris Spector, Midwest Record

“The musicians propel the songs forward, building and building until you don’t think they could possibly go any higher. And then, often, they do…. some of the most interesting and listenable free jazz I’ve heard.” – Sam Brunson, Common Consent

“Cadence Magazine has called her ‘the Ellington of free jazz,’ but that’s untrue. She’s Satoko Fujii, and her music’s coming to get you.” – Steven Heath, UK Vibe

“…it is her art, the art of a musician – Satoko Fujii, does not set boundaries and limits to her creativity – passionate and determined to search for every possible exploratory solution of sound, composition and improvisation.” – Guiseppe Mavilla, Scrivere di Jazz (Italy)

“By now, it makes no sense to compare Fujii to other pianists, but it can’t hurt to say that folks who dig Cecil Taylor, Marylin Crispell, Matthew Shipp, Myra Melford, and Paul Bley will likely find much to love here. To not short-shrift Lopez, parts of Confluence made me think of Misha Mengelberg in duo with Han Bennink, and that’s wonderful.” – Joseph Neff, The Vinyl District

“Satoko Fujii pulls out every noise trick she can. She opens the lid, reaches in, scrapes strings, pounds bass notes into submission…”  – John Garratt, Pop Matters

“Nowadays the logistics of big band music – composing it, recruiting musicians to rehearse it, getting it performed – are more formidable than ever. God bless Fujii and Tamura for their persistence…. Who else in 2019 has been at it so long and has created so much valuable big-band music along the way?” – John Litweiler, Point of Departure

“Fujii’s NYO is my favorite of her several orchestras…until I hear a different one.” – Steve Koenig, Acoustic Levitation

“Satoko Fujii is one of the most exciting key-crackers around. She can be volcanic like the late Cecil Taylor, weave a dizzying tapestry of notes like McCoy Tyner, and be tuneful like Herbie Hancock.” – Mark Keresman, ICON

“Composer-pianist-bandleader Satoko Fujii is a giant of the avant-garde… Whether in a big band, a duo with her husband trumpeter Natsuki Tamura or in a medium-sized ensemble, Fujii always creates new music, fulfilling her constant goal to perform music that has never been heard before.” – Scott Yanow, Jazz Artistry Now

“Today big jazz bands only exist outside of academic institutions because of the commitment of a collection of musicians and a singularly devoted leader. That said, it becomes possible to gauge the extraordinary calling of Japanese pianist-composer Satoko Fujii and the degree to which she can inspire fellow musicians.” –  Stuart Broomer, The Whole Note

“Most noteworthy is Satoko Fujii, who surprises us with her wide spectrum of musical activities.  I would like to nominate her for ‘Man & Woman of the Year’.” ― Keiichi Konishi, Swing Journal

“…a sense of bristling energy demanding release is never far away.” ― Julian Crowley, Wire

“Mixing avant garde rock and free jazz, the Satoko Fujii Quartet, led by the intrepid, boundary-breaking pianist Fujii, is stretching the limits of jazz.” ― Michael Harrington, Philadelphia Inquirer

“Satoko Fujii is an innovative and fearless pianist who loves rough and tumble free jazz as much as she enjoys composing softer and more lyrical pieces… Jazz lovers around the world need to start taking note of her attack – and her restraint, which is even more impressive.” ― Matt Cibula, Global Rhythm

“You have never heard jazz like this . . . it is based on total freedom and abandon but rooted in ability! …most highly recommended.” ― Dick Metcalf, Improvijazzation Nation 

“The orchestra is her instrument … and she uses it to make epic gestures.” ― John Chacona, Coda

“Extremely vigorous and forward-thinking music at once.  Don’t miss out.” ― Jason Bivins, Cadence

“Unwrapping a Satoko Fujii CD and slipping it into the CD player is always an invitation to the unexpected. Her discography boasts big band outings can that knock the listening chair through the wall; quartet sets that can make the most combative and audacious of rock bands sound like a bunch of wimps; prickly, turn-the-mood-on-a-dime trio affairs that grab the ear and demand a second spin, for a chance to figure out what went down there; and solo outings of sublime beauty and peculiar solemnity.” – Dan McClenaghan, All About Jazz

“Whether performing with her orchestra, combo, or playing solo piano, Satoko Fujii points the listener towards the future of music itself.” ― Junichi Konuma, Asahi Graph

“… Fujii and Tamura’s duets often sound like the work of one remarkable brain trust…” ― K. Leander Williams, Time Out NY

“She is Cecil Taylor, but with the common sense to come in out of the rain, and bring her listeners with her.” ― Mark Corroto, All About Jazz

“…redefines listening to music, redefines genres, redefines playing music.…an incredibly rich listening experience…” ― Stef Gjissels, Free Jazz Blog

“Romantic, cacophonous, intelligent, and thoroughly without pretense.” – Steve Mossberg, Arts Fuse

“Fujii manages to juggle the daunting task of juxtaposing traditional Japanese melodies with modern, creative improvisation and she does it all with a warrior-like bravada.” ― Fred Jung, Jazz Weekly

“Multiple rhythms and free counterpoint are the name of the game here; think Sun Ra Arkestra meets Either/Orchestra with dashes of Stravinsky and Sousa for good measure.” ― Pete Gershon, Soundboard

“Combining the fluent technique and harmonic theory of classical music, the serene intensity of traditional Japanese aesthetics, and the risk-taking spirit of jazz, the conservatory-trained Fujii has developed a singular voice on the acoustic keyboard.  Her broad-minded vision strikes a balance between conventional and experimental, ranging from lush melodic phrasing on the keys to haunting timbral excursions produced on the strings inside the piano.” ― Sam Prestianni, San Francisco Weekly

“Their music captures the exuberance and freshness of first-time experiences.” ― Satoshi Kojima, Strange Days

“Fujii’s touch is resolute, and her command of the instrument is virtuosic… Fujii’s playing is at times disarmingly beautiful and at others shockingly aggressive.” ― Adam Kinner, The Montreal Gazette

“Jazz, rock and world music may seem like a lot of bases to cover, but that’s typical of Fujii’s interests… Taking such an open approach to inspiration has been a boon for Fujii artistically.” ― J.D. Considine, Toronto Globe and Mail

“Critics have hailed her ability as a bandleader who gets the finest work from her collaborators. Where some leaders push or drive their players to new heights, she seems to enjoy going with the flow and adding just the most subtle twists and turns to keep it moving. Perhaps this is why her music is often melodic and beautiful at the point where others offer cacophony.” ― Stuart Derdeyn, Vancouver Province 

“If you know anything about Ms. Fujii, you understand when she creates music, the listener steps into a very different world. She writes for all different sized ensembles, creating big band music that is progressive and roiling, quartet music that is both clangorous and contemplative, leads a trio that is hard-edged and pleasing and creates duo pieces that are poetic yet often fraught with tension.” ― Richard Kamins, Hartford Courant

“Critics and fans alike hail pianist and composer Satoko Fujii as one of the most original voices in jazz… Just as her career spans international borders, her music spans many genres, blending jazz, contemporary classical and traditional Japanese folk music into an innovative synthesis instantly recognizable as hers alone.” ― The Montclair Times

 “She’s an abstract expressionist who uses clusters – intimate fingerings – and manages to find rhythmic motifs in free playing.” ― Los Angeles City Beat

“Their command of dynamics is what sets them apart. Often working small shifts on a simple motif, or playing quickfire unison openings, they captivate in such immediately appealing ways that it is a while before one is aware of the prodigious technique which both command. (I’ve long thought Tamura one of the very finest contemporary trumpeters, while Fujii is clearly one of the leading composers and musical thinkers).…As a duo here, though they are not without a humorous side, they produced some of the most purely, if occasionally severely, beautiful music that I’ve heard in years.” ― Stephen Middleton, London Jazz News

“The wildness and energy of Fujii’s trio made for an awesome listening experience.” ― Hiroki Sugita, Swing Journal

 “…these musicians can bring anything to the climax, interacting flexibly with each other no matter how their performances or sounds may change.  Their spiritual spontaneity frees listeners’ minds… especially pleasant is the smooth transition into the ending where four individual stories are converged by creating multi-layered sound.” ― Masahiko Yuh, Asahi Newspaper

“The Satoko Fujii Four explore sound itself, trying to elicit every sound living in their instruments.” – Joyce Corbett, The Live Music Report.com

“One of Fujii’s most admirable qualities is her fearless willingness to take risks.” – Chris Robinson, Point of Departure

“Fujii’s music is unique. And the great thing is that she keeps inventing herself, with all her many bands playing totally different things, but all with the same underlying quality and recognizable vision.” – Stef Gjissels, Free Jazz Collective

 “Expect the unexpected from the highly experimental, classically inspired quartet (Satoko Fujii Four). Their songs, which sometimes reach over 20 minutes, often shift directions, taking inspiration from post-bop jazz techniques and styles, classical music and other sources… It is advisable to approach this band with an open mind, and be ready to be surprised by their astounding, complex sound.” ― Ernest Barteldes, New York Press

“Musicians often say that Fujii’s pieces are difficult to play, but they actually lead to the open spaces that will draw wildness from the players and accept them… Fujii takes control of the spaces with her compositional talent and rich imagination.” ― Kazue Yokoi, Jazz Critique

“Fujii explores the keyboard with fury and finesse. She’s able to express a wide range of emotions and does so with clarity… Each player is as free as a bird, and nothing holds them back.” ― Jim Santella, All About Jazz

“Fujii calls the quartet her rock band. But though it may be loud, if not by rock standards, it evokes the mastery of improvisational virtues which its leader has always shown, and constitutes one of her most fascinating ventures to date…totally compelling.” ― Andy Hamilton, Jazz Review (UK)

 “…she demonstrated a remarkable expressivity…fully exploiting the piano’s attributes, from the keyboard to the soundboard—and, in an impressive display of extended technique, augmented those attributes.” – Phillip Lutz, DownBeat

“Fujii’s music has both lyricism and a sturdy sense of humor, and expands the possibility of ‘jazz’ in the most authentic way.” ― Koji Murai, CD Journal

“Satoko Fujii delivers a narrative world to listen to or to leave, conveyed by unique, meditation-based feeling and the quest for an eminently personal place.” – Yves Dorison, Culture Jazz (France)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *