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The Future of the Past

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Album Review

The Future of the Past continues pianist, composer, and bandleader Satoko Fujii's series of releases for her 15-piece group, an outlet she uses in addition to her work in duo, trio, and quartet settings. While the instrumentation on the spring 2003 release is that of a standard big band; the music is anything but. Fujii's piano, which has been compared with Cecil Taylor's iconoclasms, is not in great evidence on the session; rather, she uses the band as her principal instrument. Still, the Taylor reference is pertinent, as the music often sounds like a big-band version of Taylor's free jazz mayhem. The rock-like thwump of Aaron Alexander's drumming and Stomu Takeishi's bass is another prevailing characteristic. Coupled with the long melody lines of some of the arrangements, the purposefully plodding drums and bass contribute, at times, to a sound that recalls Ian Carr's jazz-rock ensemble Nucleus. That comparison only goes so far, though, as Fujii's band operates well outside jazz-rock convention. Collective and individual improvisations dominate much of the set, with solo space often given over to animalistic bellowing and whuffling. In one sequence, saxophonists combine to emulate the guttural, overtone layered sound of Inuit throat singing. Elsewhere long stretches of en masse extemporization set up several climatic moments of cathartic communion among the horns. While this is a challenging and provocative set, there is some radiant music here for the listener who hits upon it in a suitably receptive frame of mind.

The Future of the Past, Satoko Fujii Orchestra
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