Sunday, March 28, 2021

Satoko Fujii / Tokyo Trio – Moon On The Lake (May 7, 2021 Libra Records)

Pianist-composer Satoko Fujii Debuts Tokyo Trio, Her First Standard Piano Trio
Since 2013, on Her Latest CD, Moon on the Lake

“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

Pianist-composer Satoko Fujii brings together a new piano trio on her latest release Moon on the Lake captured live at Tokyo’s famous jazz venue, Pit Inn. The Tokyo Trio features Fujii with two of the most indemand younger musicians on the Japanese jazz scene, bassist Takashi Sugawa and drummer Ittetsu Takemura. They form a lithe, quick witted trio, capable of terrific speed and excitement as well as subtle textures and tone colors. Moon on the Lake puts their wide range and capabilities on full display.

Although this new group is a classic jazz piano trio, Fujii isn’t primarily concerned with echoing the jazz tradition. “I of course love jazz piano trio; Bill Evans is my favorite,” she says. “But I don’t try to have an inheritance of tradition in my music. I know it comes out, anyway. I want to hear individual voices in my music.”

Instead she focuses on the personalities of the musicians she works with, independently of the instrument they play, and how well they might work together. Her connection to Takemura goes back to 2017, when he became a member of the Japanese edition of the collective quartet Kira Kira, along with Australian keyboardist Alister Spence and trumpeter Natsuki Tamura. They released Bright Force (Libra Records) as one of twelve CDs celebrating Fujii’s 60th birthday year in 2018. “I was so fascinated by his playing,” Fujii says. “He has super technique, but more importantly he knows how to use his technique musically. He plays straight ahead jazz in many groups, including with Sadao Watanabe, but he loves free improvisation and he’s courageous enough to try new things.”
“I played with Takashi several years ago with Natsuki,” she continues. “He also plays straight ahead but he’s very open and loves free improvisation. When he toured Japan with his trio, which included Tom Rainey on drums, I went to see them and was impressed by the sincerity of his playing.”

The breadth of their experience is something that appealed to Fujii. “They both are very young—Ittetsu is 30 and Takashi is 39. Most of my generation of Japanese jazz musicians are either very conservative or free, sometimes they were like enemies and only a few of them are open to what the others are doing. I like that Ittetsu and Takashi can combine the disciplines and can have fun playing both. They play together in many other groups as well. I can easily imagine that they would sound great together in other settings.”
Since both bassist and drummer are so busy, the opportunities for them to play as a trio with Fujii have been limited. They debuted at Tokyo’s legendary jazz club, Pit Inn, in August 2019. Another gig followed in December at the jazz club Classics, also in Tokyo. Their third date, on September 15, 2020, again at Pit Inn, was recorded for this album. Fujii had to cancel a planned tour in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It's clear that even with limited playing time together, they have established a close rapport and a distinctive group sound. “Hansho” (which means “alarm bell”) is a playful, sprinting tune that showcases both the trio’s rapid conversational interplay and the individual talents of each member. Takashi’s unaccompanied melodic inventions are undergirded by the rhythm of the composition, but even his departures from the tune feel organically connected to it. Ittetsu highlights both his smooth speed and attention to sound, from the tight ping of his snares to his crisp cymbal work. Fujii is in a buoyant mood and her joyful, cascading runs and knotty little phrases are strung into a grand dramatic arc. “Keep Running” is a similarly jubilant excursion, which finds Ittetsu orchestrating high energy figures all over his kit. The tune alternates between full-steam-ahead sections and splintered, disjointed parts that interrupt the forward momentum but never stop it.

Elsewhere the tempos slow and interactions are more subtle but no less astute. “Wait for the Moon to Rise” is a superbly paced tone poem featuring a poignant melody and contrasting textures and colors that unify into a tightly constructed nocturnal revery. The title track is a surprisingly Romantic sounding composition during which Ittetsu’s bowed cymbals interject abstract sounds and arco bass makes eerie loon calls to evoke the imagery of the title. Fujii also revisits “Aspiration,” the title track of her 2017 album with Wadada Leo Smith, Natsuki Tamura, and Ikue Mori. Her opening solo is a brilliant example of how she moves from one idea to another to string together phrases into coherent statements. Takamura’s bass solo has a vocal lyricism that makes it feel like a song. Once again Ittetsu shows what a musical concept of the drums he has, moving from one idea to the next and developing each one completely. The joint construction of tone colors, rhythms, and textures is a tribute to their imaginations and rapport.

Satoko Fujii duo with Natsuki Tamura – Keshin (April 9, 2021 Libra Records)

Pianist-composer Satoko Fujii and Trumpeter-composer Natsuki Tamura Record
at Home Together for New Duo Album

“The wife-husband team from Japan . . . consistently reveals a wide-open and unpredictable nature that makes
its performance a thrilling ride for the listener.” – Steve Feeney, Portland Press Herald

“Intuition and communication like that is rare.” – Adam Kinner, The Montreal Gazette

Pianist-composer Satoko Fujii says, “If I don’t make music, I just don’t feel right, I lose my sense of self.” It’s not surprising, then, that Keshin, an album of duets with trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, is the third album she’s recorded at home and released since the global COVID-19 pandemic made touring impossible a little more than a year ago. Undaunted by conditions that have eliminated performing before live audiences, she keeps making great music, whether it’s creating new projects or revitalizing familiar settings such as her longstanding duo with Tamura. This is their eighth recording together, yet they sound as inspired now as they did in 1997 when they made their first duo CD.

The pandemic has had a few surprising benefits for Fujii. “I actually have more time to compose, practice, and think about music because I cannot go on tour. I can’t even visit my parents!” she says. “Before this pandemic, we might only stay at our place for just a week out of the month. Now we stay home all the time.”

Playing and recording at home took some getting used to, however. “Last year, Natsuki and I did some live-streaming concerts on Facebook,” Fujii says. “At first it was very strange and uncomfortable to play music without an audience. Eventually we found it makes us concentrate more and play deeper within ourselves. Of course the reaction of the audience can affect us as we play, but sometimes we care too much how they react and loose our true voices. If we play our deepest selves, then we also can reach audience deeply. I have discovered so many things that I might never have noticed if this pandemic didn’t happen.”

Perhaps that’s why Keshin sounds so fresh. The experience of playing in isolation at home has paradoxically made the music more outgoing, bursting with new ideas, good spirits, and closeness between Fujii and Tamura. The exuberant “Busy Day” starts things off with a bantering exchange of phrases between trumpet and piano, then segues into a long melody performed in unison. Whether playing together or separately, they seem intent on delighting and amusing one another. “Sparrow Dance” is similarly playful, a contrapuntal weave of hopping, zig-zagging lines that call to mind the nervous, perpetually in motion activity of birds. “Dreamer” and “Drop” find the pair perfectly in sync, making balanced performances with the effortless give and take between them, a convivial blend of familiar and new. The episodic “Three Scenes” is highlighted by Tamura’s aria of squeaks and growls and a contrasting piano solo of exquisite longing and lyricism. The title track is one of Fujii’s ravishing melancholic inventions, advanced in form but accessible in feeling, highlighted by her pointillistic unaccompanied opening.
Critics and fans alike hail pianist and composer Satoko Fujii as one of the most original voices in jazz today. She’s “a virtuoso piano improviser, an original composer and a bandleader who gets the best collaborators to deliver," says John Fordham in The Guardian. In concert and on more than 90 albums as a leader or co-leader, she synthesizes jazz, contemporary classical, avant-rock, and folk musics into an innovative style instantly recognizable as hers alone. A prolific band leader and recording artist, she celebrated her 60th birthday in 2018 by releasing one album a month from bands old and new, from solo to large ensemble. Franz A. Matzner in All About Jazz likened the twelve albums to “an ecosystem of independently thriving organisms linked by the shared soil of Fujii's artistic heritage and shaped by the forces of her creativity.”

Over the years, Fujii has led some of the most consistently creative ensembles in modern improvised music, including her trio with bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Jim Black and an electrifying avantrock quartet featuring drummer Tatsuya Yoshida of The Ruins. Her ongoing duet project with husband Natsuki Tamura released their seventh recording, Pentas, in 2020. “The duo's commitment to producing new sounds based on fresh ideas is second only to their musicianship,” says Karl Ackermann in All About Jazz. Aspiration, a CD by an ad hoc quartet featuring Wadada Leo Smith, Tamura, and Ikue Mori, was released in 2017 to wide acclaim. “Four musicians who regularly aspire for greater heights with each venture reach the summit together on Aspiration,” writes S. Victor Aaron in Something Else. As the leader of no less than five orchestras in the U.S., Germany, and Japan (two of which, Berlin and Tokyo, released new CDs in 2018), Fujii has also established herself as one of the world’s leading composers for large jazz ensembles, leading Cadence magazine to call her, “the Ellington of free jazz.”
Trumpeter and composer Natsuki Tamura is internationally recognized for his unique musical vocabulary blending extended techniques with jazz lyricism. This unpredictable virtuoso “has some of the stark, melancholy lyricism of Miles, the bristling rage of late ’60s Freddie Hubbard and a dollop of the extended techniques of Wadada Leo Smith and Lester Bowie,” observes Mark Keresman of Throughout his career, Tamura has led bands with radically different approaches. On one hand, there are avant rock jazz fusion bands like his quartet, whose album Hada Hada Peter Marsh of the BBC described this way: “Imagine Don Cherry woke up one morning, found he'd joined an avant goth-rock band and was booked to score an Italian horror movie.” In contrast, Tamura has focused on the intersection of folk music and sound abstraction with Gato Libre since 2003.

The band’s poetic, quietly surreal performances have been praised for their “surprisingly soft and lyrical beauty that at times borders on flat-out impressionism,” by Rick Anderson in CD Hotlist. Tamura also collaborates on many of Fujii’s projects, from quartets and trios to big bands. As an unaccompanied soloist, he’s released three CDs, including Dragon Nat (2014). He and Fujii are also members of Kaze, a collaborative quartet with French musicians, trumpeter Christian Pruvost and drummer Peter Orins. “As unconventional as he may be,” notes Marc Chenard in Coda magazine, “Natsuki Tamura is unquestionably one of the most adventurous trumpet players on the scene today.”

Unscientific Italians - Play the music of Bill Frisell Vol​.​1 (May 21, 2021 Hora Records)

May 21st, 2021 will mark the start of the Italian label Hora Records with the release of Unscientific Italians Play The Music of Bill Frisell – Volume 1. The ensemble Unscientific Italians, led by Alfonso Santimone, features some of the most gifted performers and bandleaders on the Italian scene.

Born in 2008 for a small feature of the Italian collective/label El Gallo Rojo at Centro D'Arte in Padova, this project went into hibernation for more than 10 years and came back in 2020, with a revised lineup and repertoire, for 2 days of rehearsals, concerts (at Torrione Jazz Club in Ferrara) and recordings (at Teatro Asioli in Correggio).

Bill Frisell is undoubtedly one of the most influential masters in today’s jazz landscape. However, his compositions remain unexplored, perhaps because of a lack of critical distance, perhaps because their apparent simplicity hides impenetrable folds to those who lack the right perspective.

Musically speaking, Unscientific Italians is not a tribute or an orchestral rendition of Frisell’s music, but rather an idiosyncratic rewriting and orchestration that borrows his compositional and instrumental language. This work has also a documentary value, since it draws from a seminal phase of Frisell’s production – the early Nineties – that today seems to be neglected despite his unambiguous celebration by audience and critics.

This release is published on vinyl and digitally, with the blessing of Bill Frisell himself, who generously offered some of his sketches for the cover artwork.

1. Before We Were Born
2. Probability Cloud
3. Unsung Heroes
4. Hangdog
5. Rob Roy
6. Twenty Years
7. Verona

Mirco Rubegni trumpet, flugelhorn, french horn
Fulvio Sigurtà trumpet, flugelhorn
Filippo Vignato trombone
Federico Pierantoni trombone
Cristiano Arcelli alto sax, soprano sax, bass clarinet
Piero Bittolo Bon alto sax, clarinet, bass clarinet
Francesco Bigoni tenor sax, clarinet, live electronics on brass
Rossano Emili baritone sax, bass clarinet
Alfonso Santimone piano, live electronics on clarinets
Danilo Gallo double bass
Zeno De Rossi drums

All compositions by Bill Frisell (Friz-Tone Music BMI)
Arranged and conducted by Alfonso Santimone

Produced by Unscientific Italians and Hora Records
Recorded October 22-23, 2019 at Teatro Asioli, Correggio (RE), Italy
Recording Engineer: Diego Bergamini
Mixed by Alfonso Santimone @ blackHole unLTD
Mastered by Giovanni Versari at La Maestà, Tredozio (FC), Italy

Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & The London Symphony Orchestra - Promises (March 2021 Luaka Bop)

The all-star collaboration between a producer, a saxophonist, and a symphony is a celestial event. But it’s Pharoah Sanders’ playing that holds it all together, a clear late-career masterpiece.

In a 2020 interview with The New Yorker, saxophonist Pharoah Sanders, who turned 80 last October, said he hadn’t been listening to records for a while. “I listen to things that maybe some guys don’t,” he said. “I listen to the waves of the water. Train coming down. Or I listen to an airplane taking off.” For most of Sanders’ career as an improvising musician, he was in a studio or on a stage with other musicians, and they listened and played together in real time. But he’s a listener as well as a player, able to respond to what he’s hearing and create beautiful art under different circumstances. His adaptability allowed him to work in a multitude of settings over the years, from harsh free playing through groove-heavy spiritual jazz and excursions into popular song.

In the past year, Sanders worked with Sam Shepherd, the British producer and composer who records under the name Floating Points, on a sweeping, nine-movement piece called “Promises.” Shepherd composed the music, played various instruments, electronic and otherwise, and enlisted the London Symphony Orchestra to perform it. Sometimes the piece is so quiet you might check your volume setting to see if it’s still on, and other times, when the strings hit a crescendo, it’s earth-shaking. In the middle of this tapestry is Sanders, his warm tone and fluid technique undiminished even at 80 years old, listening to his surroundings and finding brilliant patterns to stitch the work together and thus elevate it.

There are clear antecedents to this record. As far as strings and an improvising saxophone, there was Ornette Coleman’s 1972 Skies of America, also recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra—though his arrangements had a biting edge of atonality that would break the spell cast here. Alice Coltrane’s Lord of Lords from the same year has a similar spiritual underpinning, and her arrangement of “Going Home” on that record shares some feeling with this piece. And the combination of squelchy jazz-informed electronics from a young DJ and acoustic improvisation from an elderly master brings to mind Kieran Hebden & Steve Reid’s 2007 record Tongues, and work by Flying Lotus, but those are beat-driven projects and Promises is about melody, harmony, and texture. There’s patience and focus to this piece, all powered by Sanders’ horn.

1. Movement 1 06:24
2. Movement 2 02:31
3. Movement 3 02:32
4. Movement 4 02:31
5. Movement 5 04:25
6. Movement 6 08:50
7. Movement 7 09:28
8. Movement 8 07:22
9. Movement 9 02:30

Michel Magne - Le Monocle Rit Jaune (April 30, 2021 Jazz Room Records)

Super cool Jazz score by Michel Magne in the vein of Dave Brubeck’s Take Five; Super Rare too, original copies fetching £250 and upwards.

Taken from the 1960’s Action/Comedy film “Le Monocle Rit Jaune” Directed by Georges Lautner (who also directed “Le Pacha” which features a score by Serge Gainsbourg).

Each single will come with a sticker designed by our resident Art Worker Nathan Dot Left.


Anyone who was into the last Jazz Room single release of Take Vibe -"Golden Brown" is going to want to get their hands on a copy of this. Recently featured on Worldwide FM's Jazz Guru Gilles Peterson's playlist this is a must buy. Limited pressing, don't miss out.

Jazz Room Records by The Original Jazz DJ Paul Murphy.

Ce 45t mini EP (4 titres) est extrait de la bande originale de la comédie d'action des années 1960, « Le Monocle Rit Jaune » qui a été réalisé par Georges Lautner. Ce dernier n’est autre que le réalisateur du film « Le Pacha » dont la musique a été composée par un certain Serges Gainsbourg et qui met en vedette l'emblématique acteur français Jean Gabin.

Toutes les pochettes sont imprimées à la main avec un graphisme réalisé par notre artiste résident : Nathan Dot Left.

Tous ceux qui ont apprécié le dernier single de Jazz Room, Take Vibe – « Golden Brown », vont vouloir en obtenir un exemplaire à coup sur. Playlisté par Gilles Peterson, le grand Guru du Jazz de Worldwide FM, il s'agit d'un achat incontournable. Sorti en pressage limité, cette reédition est à ne pas manquer.

Jazz Room Records par l’Original DJ de Jazz – Paul Murphy.

Khan Jamal - Infinity (April 16, 2021 Jazz Room Records)

Vibe’s Maestro Khan Jamal’s “Infinity” features a Stellar line up, a drums and percussion-rich sextet that features altoist Byard Lancaster and a Philadelphia-based rhythm section, Clifton Burton on harmonica and the legendary free drummer Sunny Murray. Khan Jamal contributed four of the five songs, while pianist Bernard Sammul brought in a cooking "The Angry Young Man."

The music stands up to and can be compared to anything released on the great Jazz labels and just like a Classic Blue Note, Prestige, Verve or Impulse release this is an absolute Stand Out Session.

For the London, Tokyo and all points West End crowd the Worldwide Sound is "The Known Unknown" which has been featured on several underground compilations back in the Acid Jazz Heydays of the 1990's, but the whole album is a complete undiscovered gem.

Self released in 1984 and long out of print, original copies fetch $1000 and upwards, so Jazz Room Records are proud and pleased to bring this Spiritual Soul Jazz gem out to a wider audience.

Trio Segment - Fantômes (March 2021)

Le trio Segment se réapproprie le genre du trio jazz, en privilégiant la subtilité, le développement des idées, la richesse acoustique des sons, et surtout le sens du collectif. Créé en 2017 à Chalon-sur-Saône, Segment réunit Antonin Néel (piano), Victor Prost (batterie) et Jean Waché (contrebasse), et vient d'enregistrer son tout premier album, avec uniquement des compositions originales.

1. Les anneaux de Saturne 06:29
2. Fosbury en orbite 07:30
3. Plus puissant 06:27
4. Penta 08:16
5. Loki 06:01
6. Diminished mad walk 05:51
7. Augmented crazy blues 06:02
8. Continuum 04:29
9. Camille 15:28

Antonin Néel : piano
Victor Prost : batterie
Jean Waché : contrebasse

Enregistré, mixé et masterisé par Robin Mory (Studio Triphon, Dijon)
Fabriqué par Inouïe distribution
Co-production entre l'Arrosoir (Chalon-sur-Saône) et le trio Segment

Chris Gale / Chris Banks / Chris Wallace - Other Things As Well (March 2021)

Toronto, Canada based trio playing unique chordless trio takes on classic jazz standard repertoire.

1. Broadway 03:57
2. Sophisticated Lady 07:15
3. Three Little Words 03:45
4. Just Squeeze Me 07:05
5. I Didn't Know what Time it Was 05:41
6. Isfahan 05:03

Chris Gale - tenor saxophone
Chris Banks - double bass
Chris Wallace - drums

Recorded at GB Studio. Toronto ON. October 2020
Recorded, mixed and mastered by Johnny Griffith