AMN Reviews: Satoko Fujii – Piano Music (2021; Libra Records)

Pianist Satoko Fujii has been a major force in free jazz and improvised music for a quarter-century, leading various ensembles and collaborating with well-known names. Releasing an album titled Piano Music seems a bit redundant at first blush, as all of her material is ostensibly piano music. But the two long pieces on this album are a different animal.

Fujii recorded herself playing and manipulating a piano. The manipulations involve striking the keys as well as plucking, rubbing, and dropping objects on the strings. She then selected a number of short recordings along these lines and uploaded them to a computer for processing. This latter step involved arranging and overlapping these segments into the two tracks. The result has more in common with musique concrete than Fujii’s previous works. Piano Music includes drones, tone clusters, ambient passages, percussive passages, a few disjointed melodies, and an exploration of texture and form. Some points even resemble whalesong.

But what makes this album remarkable is not only how different it is when compared to what one might expect from Fujii, but also in how well it works as an experimental recording. Indeed, whether you are a longtime fan or have never heard of her, Piano Music‘s unconventional approach has a solid appeal to those with open ears. Strong recommendation.