Fujii Orchestra New York is pianist-composer Satoko Fujii’s longest standing big band making their debut in 1997. The group’s latest release, Summer Suite contains three tracks and within each one are mini etudes and epistles which provide the listener with a series of adventures one right after the next. The band moves from gorgeous symphonies to chaotic entanglements and screechy caterwauling implementing obscure accents like cowbells and charred chords slipping into the orchestral quivers. Fujii Orchestra New York are at the apex of their creative edge if Summer Suite is any indication of their prowess. Passages are tailored to accommodate soloists and improvisations are poignant to the storyline of the pieces. One voice is not more important than the others, in fact, everyone is involved in the action from the rambunctious interludes to the graceful ringlets. Interruptions merely move the piece in another direction, and the band is attentive to its calling.
The title track is an active dialog that covers an extensive amount of ground from spiking ridges to fluid spirals. "Sanrei" opens with a moody film noir theme with slithering saxophones and tempestuous beats. The piece has exotic curves with a Yiddish-phrased solo from trombonist Joe Fielder and a ruminating solo from alto saxophonist Oscar Noriega. The piece rises and descends with graceful transitions and a tightness in the band that holds listeners in a trance-like state. The final track "In The Town You Don’t See On The Map" is a cheerful piece through and through with squiggling horns that dance vivaciously and spout musings capriciously. Duets are performed by alto saxophonist Briggan Krauss and tenor saxophonist Ellery Eskelin, and another between baritone saxophonist Andy Laster and trumpeter Natsuki Tamura. It’s a piece that is sure to delight the senses.
Fujii Orchestra New York shows that they still have a magical rapport. From symphonic expeditions to avant-styled adventures. Summer Suite excites and impresses with patches of improvisations, harmonic phrases and exchanges played off the cuff. The ebb and flow of the pieces is natural injecting lush climaxes and calming reclines. Fujii Orchestra New York is not only Satoko Fujii’s longest running big band but it is also the most melodic sounding project that she has been involved with, and the band continues to inspire her playing and imagination.