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S. Fujii & Otomo Y. - Perpetual Motion

Mark Corroto, AllAboutJazz


This duo has been a long time in the making. Two giants of the Japanese music scene finally perform together, and it only took thirty years to happen. Each musician has a decorated career in solo performance, Satoko Fujii at the piano and Otomo Yoshihide with either guitar, turntables, or electronics. They both also guide larger ensembles, Fujii with her various orchestra work both in Japan and New York, and Otomo with his big bands and orchestras which perform original music plus fresh covers of compositions from Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy, and Ornette Coleman. Then there are the duos, trios and quartets, too many to mention here.

This performance was part of the annual festival curated by Fujii and her husband Natsuki Tamura at Tokyo's Pit Inn in January 2022. The duo consisted of a single forty-eight-minute performance which is sequenced into four tracks for this release. Their performance opens softly enough with Fujii opening her piano's lid and alternatively massaging the strings and knocking on its body, and Otomo plucking his own guitar strings. As the motion progresses, deep resonances of sound are elicited from both musicians. Fujii's prepared piano often sounds like a guitar with Otomo's guitar capturing echoing thunder and other rumbling vibrations. When the guitarist shifts into noisier territories with feedback, Fujii hammers her keyboard and its insides. The two are not so much in a conflict as they are in a oneness of purpose here. The music, at its finest moments, slows its pace and mushrooms outward with lengthened guitar notes which decay over a Fujii's keyboard explorations. Each quiet to loud section introduces abrasive noise as mini pinnacles before retreating into more introspective dialogues. This first meeting is indeed a triumph by two master improvising musicians.