When news that Tatsuya Yoshida was playing in Satoko Fuji's quartet started circulating Internet chat groups a couple years ago, the reaction was largely disbelief. Fuji is a talented jazz pianist who studied with Paul Bley but can pound like Cecil Taylor. A meeting with her and the monster drummer from The Ruins seemed unlikely at best. One of them would have to give, but which one would it be?
The first chance to hear the results on this side of the Pacific was the disappointing Vulcan (Libra), which was a typical Fuji small group jazz session with Yoshida playing too loud and too hard. So the Fuji/Yoshida duo at 2002's Victoriaville festival (subsequently released on Victo records) was a happy surprise. This time it was more Fuji in Yoshida's world, with quick nonverbal vocals and fast, manic changes (both contributed compositions, however).
Now they're back to the jazz quartet, but this time Yoshida behaves, propelling without overpowering. Fuji's compositions are good and her piano playing beautiful, as always. The presence of an electric bass, played by Takeharu Hayakawa, helps to temper Yoshida, and Fuji's husband, Natsuki Tamura, carries beautiful trumpet voicings throughout. It leans more toward a rock-out than Fuji's previous discs, but not so much as to distract from her jazz base.
Tamura is a fine jazz trumpeter as well, but his own projects tend to be edgier. His new Hada Hada is a setting in which Yoshida might have been more at home (in fact, he would have been a better choice than Takaaki Masuko, who keeps pace but doesn't fill half the space Yoshida would have). The disc is a mad wash of Takayuki Kato's guitar and Fuji on synthesizer (apparently her first nonacoustic outing on record) and trumpet delay with a hard bottom end, something like the vicious jazz of John Zorn's PainKiller.
Both albumsare on Fuji's Libra Records, and self-releasing presumably gives the cold space to experiment - which can be a luxury and a curse. Here, happily, both experiments work.
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