Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York


Satoko Fujii’s mastery as a pianist, composer and arranger is well-established. But even seasoned listeners might be taken aback by Entity, her latest collaboration with the New York iteration of her orchestra. From the massive, seasick big-band chord that launches the titular first track, Entity never lets up. While definitely an ensemble piece, the opener is a remarkable showcase for guitarist Nels Cline and drummer Ches Smith, who spend most of the tune in a dissonant cockfight, while the orchestra chants and bellows. It’s a performance of pure sonic derring-do. Fujii probably could have arranged a full record of this kind of hi-octane squall—and made it satisfying. But Entity is far richer in dynamics than that. “Gounkaiku” starts slowly before cascading into aching melodic majesty; it then dips into a weaving shuffle, allowing trumpeter Dave Ballou a chance to play ringleader for a thoughtful interlude.

Entity initially might seem a bit far-out, but at the center of all these compositions is an innate sense of composition and musicality. It’s fiery, sure, but never with the intention of burning anything down.