Satoko Fujii Min-Yoh Ensemble Watershed

Classically trained jazz pianist/composer Satoko Fujii has long explored both structured and free jazz. But she found the brawny brashness and artful abstraction of those approaches to expression lacking something of her Japanese heritage. Fujii has found the missing part of her voice in Min-Yoh, a simple folk music played and arranged by amateurs that has an uncomplicated directness and economy of communication. With her long-time musical partner, husband Natsuki Tamura, on trumpet, communication flows freely, with melodic arcs opening out of motivic patterns, as on the dance rhythm of Fujii's composition, "Whitewater." The happy tune is filled out with interplay between trombonist Curtis Hasselbring and the always-creative Andrea Parkins on accordion, a wonderfully appropriate instrument for these pastoral songs. The traditional "Takeda no Komoriuta" is delicately stated by Fujii and Tamura before being joined by Hasselbring and Parkins, who play the line while the trumpet whispers breathily and the piano glints like sunlight on icicles: quietly powerful. Watershed is "new old": traditional music realized by contemporary improvisers. (Libra)