In ensembles big and small, the prolific musician uses sound to make the world’s complexities a little more graspable.
Since the 1990s, Satoko Fujii has released close to 100 albums, mostly through her own Libra Records label.
Whether she’s playing solo piano or leading one of her various large ensembles, the pianist and composer Satoko Fujii will tug you toward the details.
The leader of a dizzying array of ensembles both large and small, Fujii is arguably the most prolific pianist in jazz — if also among the most underrecognized. Since the 1990s, she has released close to 100 albums, mostly through her own Libra Records label. Two years ago, celebrating her 60th birthday, a milestone known as “kanreki” in Japanese culture, she put out a new album each month, including both solo piano and big-band works.
Fujii says that she seems to hear music everywhere, and she feels challenged to channel the sensations of the world as directly as she can. “This probably sounds strange, but when I compose I feel like the music is already there — we just didn’t notice,” she said in a recent interview from her home in Kobe, Japan. “I feel like I’m just looking for something that was hidden, but that is already there.” The sound of an airplane overhead, an overheard conversation, even the rustling of trees can provide a spark.
Without access to gigs, jam sessions or a recording studio during pandemic lockdown, she felt herself becoming unmoored. On walks around Kobe, she was touched by the uncanny nervousness of the atmosphere, but she and her husband, the trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, had nobody else to play with. “Everything was canceled,” she said. “I felt like: Who am I?”