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Under The Water by Satoko Fujii and Myra Melford

In the realm of truly spur-of-the-moment improvised music there is hardly anyone better than Myra Melford. To be brought into her aural world is to be treated to sounds and colors unlike any other performer or composer alive. On this recording she is joined by Japanese avant-garde jazz pianist and composer Satoko Fujii. Fujii’s background includes receiving degrees from the Berklee College of Music and the New England Conservatory of Music (NEC). She has recorded more than 50 albums as a leader or co-leader. Melford is perhaps the United States’ most eclectic jazz musician and has recorded 19 albums as a leader or co-leader in an astonishing variety of contexts and within a wide variety of compositional formats.

These two artists were introduced to each other by Paul Bley in 1994 while Fujii was a student of Bley’s at the NEC. Finally playing together in Tokyo, Melford and Fujii again joined forces on the West Coast in the U.S. in 2007. The results are on this disc. Together the two pianists play on three of the disc’s five tracks. In duet the artists end up creating vignettes that truly know no boundaries. Whether playing within the piano and/or on the strings, and/or pulling the strings, and/or dampening the strings as the keys are struck, and/or using the wood frame as a large percussion instrument, and/or playing the instrument as one normally does, Melford and Fujii think of the possible, not the probable.

The result of such unfettered thinking is yet another in the long canon of truly inspired and excellent recordings Melford has been associated with during her entire lifetime. While the titles are evocative of water images, the music still triumphantly stands on its own. The music is many times richly tonal and full of musical snippets which find themselves well developed as the motivic ideas are built and tossed around by each artist. The use of extra-musical performance techniques only adds to the highly accomplished climaxes they reach. One may look at this music as the evolution of a series of tension building sections that are released in novel and unexpected yet logical manners, but one might be more reasonable in seeing the music as a series of ebbs and flows within certain shared musical horizons the two artists have in common.

Each of the artists gets a solo turn. Fujii’s "Trace A River" moves from prepared piano to joyously energetic accented exclamations that eventually settle into something like a song. Melford’s "Be Melting Snow" is so virtuosic it’s hard to believe her hands are, in her own words, small. For Melford fans this disc is yet another essential tome in her legacy, for fans of totally improvised music this recording shows how it should be done, and for practitioners of free jazz let this recording guide and show you the errors so many of you create.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Satoko Fujii and Myra Melford
  • CD Title: Under The Water
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 2009
  • Record Label: Libra
  • Tracks: Yadokari, Trace A River, The Migration Of Fish, Be Melting Snow and Utsubo
  • Musicians: Myra Melford (piano), Satoko Fujii (piano)
  • Rating: Five Stars
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