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 Title:               Heat Wave

 By:                  Satoko Fujii Ma Do

 Released in:   2008

 Format:          CD

 Catalog No:    MW 806-2

 Price :             12 EUR


1. Heat Wave [05:29]

2. Beyond The Horizon [08:58]

3. Mosaic [07:20]

4. Ring a Bell [06:57]

5. Tornado [06:43]

6. The Squall in the Sahara [07:23]

7. Amoeba [05:02]

8. Spiral Staircase [04:25]

9. To the Skies [03:04]



Satoko Fujii - piano

Natsuki Tamura - trumpet

Norikatsu Koreyasu - bass

Akira Horikoshi - drums




As her fiftieth birthday nears, pianist Satoko Fujii continues to release recordings at a furious pace. However, despite always extending her compositional and improvisational language, her musical personality remains recognizable by its unique mixture of melody, rhythm, freedom and structure. An amazing release, Heat Wave presents a new band named the Ma-Do Quartet, consisting of players from other bands which Fujii has played in or led—trumpeter Natuski Tamura, Fujii's husband and musical collaborator; bassist Norikatsu Koreyasu, a member of Tamura's band Gato Libre; and drummer Akira Horikoshi, a member of Fujii's Tokyo Big Band. This band and its music sounds like a conscious summation of Fujii's most recent efforts in both composition and performance. Elegantly fused are the qualities of Fujii's other Japanese quartet, in its power and intensity; her Junk Box trio with Tamura and percussionist John Hollenbeck, in its use of unconventional compositions requiring the musicians to give them import; her American trio with bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Jim Black, for their pure improvisatory prowess; and Tamura's Gato Libre, for its delightfully surprising and touching melodies. This synthesis sounds entirely natural, and is represented by the quartet's name of "ma-do," which means "window" in Japanese, with "ma" also meaning the "silence between the notes." What Fujii is getting at with this name is not only that this music "opens to the outside," but also that listeners can see its insides, as the players negotiate the notation and react to it. This music has an exquisite liveliness. It literally breathes, changing shape, texture and color continuously while it develops. The excitement created is palpable as the quartet reacts to what is written, with the result being three-dimensional structures of avant-garde classical grace that mutate, turning on a dime into heavy funk or literally exploding. While Fujii relates that she is writing more and more, and that she needed musicians who could work from a written score, the only obviously composed parts here are those when a difficult line is played in unison. The gallery of sounds that Fujii imagined and scored is astounding. She takes great advantage not only of Tamura's advanced techniques of moans and screams, but also his softer, Gato Libre side. Koreyasu and Horikoshi are locomotives one second, only to drop to shimmering cymbals and arco groans at another. Around, under, and through everything, Fujii displays her enormous range of piano playing, from the ferocious to the picturesque. She also uses the inside of the piano extensively, producing sounds that blend exceedingly well with Tamura and the others, as in a section near the end of "Beyond The Horizon." Aurally stunning, complex and yet deeply and emotionally involving, Heat Wave is a new high for Fujii. She has created, and continues to extend, her own sound world.


(Budd Kopman, All About Jazz )




Heat Wave is the fourth record released in 2008 featuring the prolific and talented Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii. In honor of her 50th birthday, she organized an intensive release schedule, issuing three albums so far on her Libra imprint, including Trace a River with her veteran trio featuring bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Jim Black, Cloudy Then Sunny with the collective trio Junk Box, as well as appearing on her husband trumpeter Natsuki Tamura's recent Gato Libre album, Kuro. Ma-Do is Fujii's newest ensemble, specifically chosen to interpret her heavily notated compositions. An intimate acoustic quartet with a vast dynamic range, this line-up lacks the electronic excess of her more rock oriented quartet and eschews the open-ended excursions favored by her longstanding trio in favor of thematically concise improvisations. Fujii is once again joined by Tamura; from intimate duos to big band settings, their empathetic rapport has developed over the years to virtually telepathic levels. Their rhythm section consists of bassist Norikatsu Koreyasu, from Tamura's Gato Libre ensemble and drummer Akira Horikoshi, courtesy of Fujii's Tokyo big band. Fujii regularly breaks the quartet into trio, duo and solo formations, which allows space for her compositions to breathe, as they veer from ghostly serenity to vibrant expressionism. Fujii's knack for writing infectious harmonic counterpoint, staggered polyrhythms and interlocking arrangements is exemplified by the spirited interplay of the dramatic title track and the pseudo-baroque "Spiral Staircase." A diverse stylist, Fujii's full range of expression, from romantic neo-classicism to strident angularity comes to the fore. A perfect foil, Tamura's own contributions range from mellifluous contours to coarse fragments. Navigating these episodic compositions, the rhythm section alternates between supple accents and funky downbeats. A wide range of tonal colors are expressed with extended techniques on "Beyond The Horizon" and "Amoeba." On the later tune, Fujii plays directly on the strings of her piano to harp-like effect, Tamura blows ghostly howls and Koreyasu bows sonorous harmonics while Horikoshi scatters scintillating accents, all unified by the specter of a melancholy melody. "Mosaic" and "The Squall In The Sahara" demonstrate the ensembles dynamic potential, as they build from lush lyricism to harrowing angularity, while the aptly titled "Tornado" summons a vortex of blustery turbulence. The group even embarks on a Middle Eastern travelogue on "Ring A Bell," conjuring exotica-tinged modality. The lilting anthem "To The Skies" provides a final reminder of Fujii's tuneful capabilities as Koreyasu bows coarse long tones accompanied by Fujii's dulcet piano filigrees while Tamura plies tender refrains, closing the album on a bittersweet note. Another superlative recording from Satoko Fujii, Heat Wave is a perfect introduction to the work of one of today's most vital composers.


(Troy Collins, All About Jazz )




After releasing new recordings with her jazz trio (Trace a River) and her improv trio Junk Box (Cloudy Then Sunny) in the first half of 2008, Satoko Fujii kicked off the second half of that year with Heat Wave, the first CD by her new project Ma-Do. Although marketed as a "new direction" for the pianist, Ma-Do will not surprise or puzzle any of Fujii's fans. This quartet is simply more composition-based than her long-lasting trio with Mark Dresser and Jim Black, yet less "in your face" than her quartet featuring drummer Tatsuya Yoshida. There is very little improvising going on on Heat Wave, the focus being put on through-written compositions. Free improvising and textural playing are kept to a minimum, except in "Amoeba," where it sums up the piece. So you get more melodies for your buck, if that's what you're after. Otherwise, the compositions on this album are typical -- and premium -- Fujii: angular, hammered piano motives, aerial airs, progressive tunes bridging the gap between Rock in Opposition and avant-jazz. Highlights include the punchy title track, the complex "Mosaic," "The Squall in the Sahara" and its unexpected twists and turns, and the soulful "Beyond the Horizon," whose opening theme is strongly reminiscent of a soft passage in one of Magma's epics. The first half of the album is pretty strong, with the quartet (Natsuki Tamura on trumpet, acoustic bassist Norikatsu Koreyasu, drummer Akira Horikoshi) driving the music with conviction and a certain rock attitude, despite their resolutely jazz-based instrumentation. The second half loses a bit of steam, with the free-form "Amoeba" letting the album grind to a near-halt -- not that it is a bad structured improvisation, but it feels out of place here. Luckily, "Spiral Staircase" resets everything by delivering one of those complex anthems Fujii is best known for. Heat Wave may not be quite as strong as Trace a River (if you had to pick only one Fujii release from 2008), but it still makes a very fine, rather sunny and accessible listen. A good number of these tracks deserve some serious live playtime.


(François Couture, AllMusic)

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