We’ve all heard the advice “Just be yourself.” Whether it’s in preparation for a job interview, a first date, or any kind of “performance.” And yet, the advice itself is often part of the problem. Like the command “Relax!”
The 54-year-old Japanese pianist and composer Satoko Fujii has heard this advice several times in her life, but her trip to being “herself” was hard won. At this point, no one would deny her individuality. As a pianist and composer with more than 60 albums to her credit, she has forged a unique amalgam of influences — jazz, classical, Japanese folk. A solo piece might start with a discordant clash of harp-like plucked piano strings that gives way to a series of sweetly meditative chords and then an elaborate improvised melody. With the collective quartet Kaze, Fujii arranges free-jazz explosions of trumpet and drums that can clear for a Morton Feldman-like reverie of meditative chords. Likewise with her celebrated big band recordings, which mix free-jazz ferocity with detailed ensemble writing. Fujii’s coloristic range at the piano, her note choices and marksmanship, distinguish her as a singular virtuoso — player and composer at once.