Fujii Trio SAN: Hibiki

The prolific Japanese pianist met with two countrywomen to weave delicate and fiery tapestries of improvised sound live in Berlin


Since her recorded debut in 1996 the Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii has released more than a hundred albums as leader. Her percussive style stretches way beyond the conventionally tempered scale, though it would be lazy to characterise her as a descendant of Cecil Taylor. Revered as both an original composer and imaginative improviser, she can seemingly bend to almost any musical situation.

Trio SAN comprises three formidably talented female artists from Japan, and it’s a genuinely collective enterprise. Like Fujii, the Berlin-based mallet artist Taiko Saito discovered improvisation after studying classical music. Percussionist Yuko Oshima is grounded in traditional Japanese music and has been based in France since 2000. Each player contributes at least one composition, and the music was recorded live in Berlin towards the end of a short European tour.

Oshima’s opening title track grows organically from near silence. A range of extended techniques introduces an electro-acoustic feel, the trio weaving their delicate sonic tapestry with a decidedly subdued palette. The busy linear theme of Fujii’s Soba soon dissolves into stillness, the pianist’s hypnotic solo signalling a transition into a series of exuberant exchanges. Yozakura by contrast emits a soft pearlescent glow, a deep inner peace that is finally shattered with a thunderous crescendo. Oshima’s drumming takes centre stage on Fujii’s final piece, What You See. Evocative and almost ceremonial, her spellbinding patterns cast a magical spell before the trio converges for the zen-like coda.

The album closes with two short pieces from Saito: Wa briefly flirts with French impressionism before pent-up tensions erupt in an ecstatic release. Ichigo unleashes one final wave of unstoppable energy, and as the final notes subside the well-deserved round of applause is a reminder that this highly intricate and shapeshifting music was created in the moment.

Hibiki; Soba; Yozakura; What You See; Wa; Ichigo (54.18)
Satoko Fujii (p); Taiko Saito (vib); Yuko Oshima (d). Berlin, 8 June 2022.
Jazzdor Series 0001/20