Somnambule - Writing About Music

Satoko Fujii Quartet ~ Minerva

Tatsu Take begins vigorously with chords fired at high velocity, each instrument acting as if on a hair trigger. Natsuki Tamura’s trumpet initially leads like a high-octane Pied Piper. Partway in, Satoko Fujii’s piano takes over in exploratory mode, feeling out the ground as if for mines or booby traps before racing ahead, competing with bass and drums in hectic dashes for safer ground. Such analogies seem appropriate: Minerva was the Roman goddess of the art of war, born fully armed.

Warp switches tempo and begins with Yoshida’s voice filtered through something like a ring modulator; this is succeeded by Natsuki’s gentle trumpet sending sheets of notes echoing down caverns. Just as you might begin to feel lulled and rejuvenated, the quartet suddenly jumps on you like a mugger – swirling and circling in vortex-like mode and continues that way for the remaining nine minutes. Fujii’s piano sounds on the verge of cataclysm, dense note clusters spat out like glass shards threatening to rip apart Tamura’s trumpet, while Hayakawa’s electric bass spells out insistent figures before slowly becoming infected by the mayhem developing overhead. High-intensity, high-density.

Satoko Fujii (piano) and husband Natsuki Tamura (trumpet) divide their time between Tokyo and NYC where they play and record with various members of the downtown crew; they are joined on this recording by Takeharu Hayakawa on bass and Tatsuya Yoshida (of Ruins fame) on drums/voice.

How to describe this music? Nearest I can get is a form of vigorous prog-jazz. Yoshida’s wonderful percussion work proffers driving rhythms, skittering cymbals and much intricate detail; Hayakawa’s electric bass is often hyperactive and to the fore; Tamura deploys a wide range of trumpet styles from the breathy to the brassy. Fujii’s playing, in fact that of the whole quartet is full of dramatic flourishes, angular changes, stops, starts and surges.

If the initial impression this music makes is a little intimidating, ultimately its effect is that of invigoration, engagement, stimulation. Not for the faint hearted, nor those of a nervous disposition – if you’ve just had a heavy night think twice, but if you’re in the mood for demanding, fiery, vigorous jazz laced with traces of rock – seek out this music.
Colin Buttimer
May 2003
Published by the BBC