Satoko Fujii Tokyo Trio: Jet Black

The Japanese pianist can evoke Ravel in one hand and Cecil Taylor in the other, all the while making the unexpected juxtaposition seem natural


To paraphrase an old critical cliché, the most unsurprising thing about Fujii is that she will always surprise you. I can’t think of any other pianist who can simultaneously evoke Ravel in one hand and Cecil Taylor in the other, let alone make it sound natural.

The sleeve notes by Fujii’s partner, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, explain that piano trios like this are a rarity in Japan. He advises that you should go to hear this one at a gig and immerse yourself in the sound without worrying about the technicalities such as which episodes are written and which are improvised. In London there will be an opportunity to do just that on 26 May as this trio will be appearing at Café Oto in Dalston.

Failing that, Jet Black is a pretty good crash-course, with passages ranging from the fearsomely tempestuous to the serenely fragile, not infrequently linking them unexpectedly yet with the feel of inevitability, and despite the often ferocious attack the richness of her chords is always evident. Somewhere alongside these there can be music with a beguiling sense of mystery, as on Sky Reflection, arguably the heart of the album.

Along The Way; Gentle Slope; Sky Recollection; From Sometime; Take A Step; Jet Black (56.01) 
Fujii (p); Takashi Sugawa (b); Ittetsu Takemura (d). Tokyo, 21 March 2023.
(Libra Records 203 073)