Alister Spence / Satoko Fujii - intelsat

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2018 release from Alister Spence

" It is a joy and a privilege to release intelsat, a duo CD featuring Satoko Fujii (piano) and Alister Spence (fender Rhodes electric piano) on the Alister Spence Music label. I have had the pleasure to work with and alongside Satoko Fujii for more than ten years since the Alister Spence trio and Satoko Fujii Quartet shared the stage at the Tokyo International Jazz Festival in 2008. Since then we have performed regularly in duo and band settings in Australia and Japan and also Berlin. This recording was made in concert at ‘intelsat’ Jazz Club, Kiracho, Nishio, Japan, during an Australia/Japan tour in 2017."



Tradition can function as a bulwark against time’s erosive influence, but time has a funny way of working changes upon tradition. Kanreki is a Japanese celebration that observes the renewal of life when one reaches the age of 60. According to the Chinese calendar, the celebrant has come to a point of beginning again, which gives them license to enter a second childhood of sorts. Conceived in a time when most people didn’t live that long, it both honored an elder’s place within the family unit and eased them out of the patriarchal position of control. The son took over the family business, and the daughter-in-law ceremoniously took the rice paddle from mom.  

But now Japan is being so hard hit by graying demographics that the country is reevaluating the notion of retiring at 60. Under such circumstances, Satoko Fujii’s version of Kanreki makes a lot of sense. Far from winding down, she’s ramping up. The composer, bandleader and pianist observed the landmark by putting out a CD every month in 2018. Some are by longstanding ensembles, but others explore new ideas. Intelsat does a bit of both. Fujii and Australian pianist Alister Spence have shared stages since 2008, but this is their first duo album. Recorded at the Intelsat jazz club in Nishio, Japan, it’s an outlier in both musicians’ discographies and better for it.

Fujii’s music tends toward bold extensions of the jazz vernacular, and she often celebrates the merging of perspectives by bringing compositions to quickly convened big bands in different cities. Spence has worked a lot with small groups, including an enduring partnership with Scottish saxophonist Raymond MacDonald and a keyboard-bass-drums trio with Lloyd Swanton (the Necks) and Toby Hall. His music tends to be a bit more user-friendly than Fujii’s. But they’re both piano players, and the productive tensions and unlikely commonalities between their approaches makes for fascinating listening. Fujii plays grand piano, while Spence mostly sticks to an electric Fender Rhodes. From the start, both treat their instruments as sound sources rather than keyboards. E-bowed strings and high-pitched slides across the grand piano’s innards interweave with looped, mechanical clanks and bulbous single notes, creating a sound environment in constant flux.  

Then Spence shifts course with some phrases subjected to the sort of distortion that made Miles Davis’ recordings with electric pianos so rich and enveloping. Fujii responds with low-end vamps and a quick-paced, high-end foray, initiating a push-pull dynamic full of drama and tonal color. Over the next hour the two musicians jointly explore ribbons of continuous sound, oppose one another with jagged attacks, and hang back while one or the other goes deep. This isn’t the sound of musicians easing up and riding upon their laurels; this is the sound of genuine discovery, founded upon decades of experience but unfettered by habit.

Bill Meyer


SKU 752830272767
Barcode # 752830272767
Brand Australian Independent - Alister Spence Music

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