Satoko Fujii: Torrent

Despite the title, and some appropriately dense and dynamic pieces, Japanese improvising pianist Fujii is often delicate and meditative


I haven’t counted recently, but the tally of Fujii’s recordings just as leader and co-leader must easily exceed 100. She also made four solo albums between 1997 and 2017 and then five more (including this one) in the last six years.

She has said “During the pandemic I wasn’t able to play with others, of course, and I learned how to record myself at home, so I made some solo albums. That’s part of the reason I continue to record solo after the pandemic, but also, I feel more comfortable now playing unaccompanied. It’s like looking down into myself. It is deep and quiet and sometimes very dark.”

Although her playing is often delicate and meditative these qualities are not infrequently balanced by work that seems to invite the description “torrential” so the name of this album, recorded in concert, seems appropriate enough. However, although the track titles suggest that the inspirations came from maritime and other water-related subjects this is not so. She has explained: “I didn’t decide anything in advance, I just went on stage and played. None of the pieces had names when they were played. I named them later. Somehow I ended up giving them all titles suggesting travel or a voyage by sea.”

Notwithstanding that the titles were afterthoughts it is hard to resist oceanic images in response to the music. That comment about looking into herself where it is sometimes dark as well as deep and quiet hardly prevents that reaction, but there are glittering cascades too.

As ever, her playing is powerful and prodigious, the improvisations ebbing and flowing from ferocious blizzards of note clusters to delicate and impressionistic melodies, with occasional echoes of the 19th-century romantics (she studied classical piano until she was 20) and insistent dancing patterns which glitter like light through crystals. Those familiar with her work will not be disappointed, whilst others may find that diving in will be rewarding.

Torrent; Voyage; Light On The Sea Surface; Cut The Painter; Horizon; Wave Crest (52.56)
Fujii (p). Bunka Hall, Kobe, Japan, 10 October 2022.
Libra 201-072