Satoko Fujii Orchestra Blueprint

If you like your big bands brash and bold, composer-pianist Satoko Fujii’s Blueprint has got what you want. Recorded by her New York band — she leads three others in Japan — this set of pieces is brought to vigorous life by Richter-scale playing in the brass section, which includes trumpet heavies Herb Robertson and Sex Mob’s Steven Bernstein. And saxists Tony Malaby, Ellery Eskelin and Andy Laster all make the most of the open spaces in the tunes, each contributing compelling, sometime scathing solos. A strong feature of Fujii’s writing is her synthesis of inherited big band sonorities, symphonic orchestrations, and new music gestures ("Kioku” has moments that eerily echo Penderecki’s "Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima” and incorporate the pitch-melting note bends of Stockhausen’s "Adieu”). The rhythm section positions are held down by the elasticity of electric bassist Stomu Takeishi’s imagination, from rubbery streaks of shadowy note bends to pointillistic pops, and the precise rhythmic fury of drummer Aaron Alexander. All told, Satoko Fujii’s Blueprint is a beautiful blending of traditional big bands’ wham-bam with small group free jazz/improv ethos: highly recommended. (Natsat)