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Satoko Fujii Orchestra West: Blueprint

" West is more oriented to achieving harmony, while East moves in a competetive way..."

- Satoko Fujii, when asked the difference between her East and West Orchestras.

As contradictory as this sounds when compared to the actual life philiosophies of East and West, this quote becomes apparent, musically speaking, right from the opening title track. The orchestra plays it tight and close to the vest. The track does, however, feature some improvisational moments but the ensemble seems more restrained than their "East" counterparts and concentrate more on the compositional aspects of the tracks than the virtuosity of the band's members.

"Ocha!" follows suit. Penned by hubby Natsuki Tamura, this track showcases his abilities to compose minimalistic music and takes his "Exit" approach to a big band level.

"Anemometer" opens rather omniously with a slow tempo and swing ballad feel. The track then builds in intensity with a superb saxophone foray, which elevates the number to a fevered pitch as the trumpet joins the mix. Once again, the track stays within certain strict musical guidelines and never becomes a full-blown "free" excursion.

"Nagoyanian" is next. A hypnotic , funky bass line is built upon leading into a very harmonious sax solo which becomes discordant as the bass leaves it's original line and starts to roam freely.The number remains primarily a vehicle for sax and trumpet as a wide range of tones are explored in a sparse setting; with the brass section merely punctuating the musical lines with exclamatory bursts. This song also features some beautiful scoring moments. The track goes full-circle with the return of the opening bass line and ends with a high note.

The shortest piece on the disc is "Kioku". This is a dark, exploratory number featuring some electronically enhanced trumpet. The track has a stark, disquietting quality which may be just a tad unnerving. It segues into the closing "Untitled", which slowly guides us out of the darkness and towards the light. This piece is filled with highlights, such as the exquisite trumpet solo in the early stages, which keeps building in intensity; and the startling contrasts between delicate beauty and unbridled rage which give the number a schizophrenic quality. By far the strongest song on the disc, this one has all the elements "patently Fujii".

This is my first exposure to Orchestra West and I must admit a preference for the East version. The latter's more flamboyant approach appeals to my preference for a more in-your-face style. However, this is a Satoko Fujii release and she truly has the Midas touch.

Track Listing:

  1. Blueprint (9:46)
  2. Ocha! (10:01)
  3. Anemometer (9:17)
  4. Nagoyanian (15:20)
  5. Kioku (5:02)
  6. Untitled (13:23)

Added: March 6th 2005
Reviewer: Yves Dubé
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Language: english

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