Sunday, February 19, 2017

Satoko Fujii - Invisible Hand

Satoko Fujii
Invisible Hand
Cortez Sound

Satoko Fujii - piano

Invisible Hand, surprisingly, is Satoko Fujii’s first live solo recording, although you wouldn’t know from the pristine sound and edited applause. There’s not even a glass clink or cough to be heard. The inaugural release from clubowner Teruhiko Ito’s Cortez Sound label, Invisible Hand is a major milestone for Ms. Fujii, who has only released three solo albums previous to this.

The first CD of the two CD set was completely improvised, while the second features her compositions, and it’s a credit to her compositional and organizing skills that the difference is not readily apparent. Ms. Fujii covers a lot of stylistic ground, from playing inside the piano to allusions to stride to a percussive prepared piano on Floating that reminded me of Benoit Delbecq. You can still hear a little of Paul Bley’s influence, Ms. Fujii’s mentor, perhaps because of his passing only three months prior to this concert, although that's purely a guess.

Gen Himmel (Libra), her previous solo album from 2012, was generally a restrained affair with twelve mostly shorter tracks. Invisible Hand, however, features longer performances, some with suite-like structures of distinct parts. There are turbulent moments on Invisible Hand, but overall you come away with a sense of peace. You could almost call it avant-garde meditation music.

The composition Gen Himmel, featured on both albums, serves as a useful comparison. On the album of the same name, the composition is tinged with foreboding, as Ms. Fujii creates some eerie textures by playing inside the piano. Here, Gen Himmel is striking in its directness, its plain emotion, evoking a sense of yearning and reflection. It’s so beautiful it will break your heart, and it’s a fitting ending to a complex journey.