Free Jazz | Satoko Fujii/Joe Fonda: Thread of Light (FSR Records / January 21, 2022)

With material from a media release:

Free Jazz
Satoko Fujii/Joe Fonda - Thread of Light
(FSR Records / January 21, 2022)

Recorded during the COVID-19 pandemic separately, in their respective homes in Kobe and New York, Thread of Light brings together the work of two old friends who also happen to be innovative jazz artists.

Satoko Fujii/Joe Fonda: Thread of Light
Satoko Fujii/Joe Fonda: Thread of Light

Bassist Joe Fonda and pianist Satoko Fujii met years ago on the concert tour circuit, and struck up a friendship. While their touring schedules were both busy, they began a series of collaborations and live performances in a variety of formats. The duo previously apepared together in Duet (2015), Mizu (with Natsuki Tamura in 2017), and Four in 2019.

Thread of Light is bold, dissonant, decisive even in a track called Reflection. The combination of bass and piano gives both artists room to take up space and explore the possibilities of each composition, as well as, in Fonda's case, the sonic possibilities of the instrument.

The Fonda composition My Song gives the bass centre stage, along with his talent for coaxing a myriad of sounds from his instrument. Likewise, Winter Sunshine, by Fujii, is a fascinating piano-centric piece. The rest of the release was written by both artists together.

The fact that it was recorded separately is an interesting detail, but one that doesn't intrude on the music.

About the Artists

Joe Fonda, bassist
Joe Fonda (Image courtesy of the artist)

Joe Fonda “is a serious seeker of new musical horizons,” according to the Boston Phoenix. From 1984 to 1999, he was the bassist with composer-improviser and NEA Jazz Master Anthony Braxton. Fonda also has been an integral member of several cooperative bands, including the Fonda-Stevens Group with Michael Jefry Stevens, Herb Robertson and Harvey Sorgen; Conference Call, with Gebhard Ullmann, Stevens, and George Schuller; the Fab Trio with Barry Altschul and Billy Bang; and the Nu Band with Mark Whitecage, Roy Campbell, and Lou Grassi. 

He is currently a member of The 3dom Factor, Alschul’s trio with saxophonist Jon Irabagon, and guitarist Michael Musillami’s trio, among others. He has led some truly unique ensembles of his own including From the Source, which features four instrumentalists, a tap dancer, and a body healer/vocalist; and Bottoms Out, a sextet with Gerry Hemingway, Joe Daley, Michael Rabinowitz, Claire Daly and Gebhard Ullmann. He has released twelve recordings under his own name.

Satoko Fujii (Photo by Brian Murray)
Satoko Fujii (Photo by Brian Murray)

Pianist and composer Satoko Fujii, “an improviser of rumbling intensity and generous restraint” (Giovanni Russonello, New York Times), is one of the most original voices in jazz today. For more than 25 years, she has created a unique, personal music that spans many genres, blending jazz, contemporary classical, rock, and traditional Japanese music into an innovative synthesis instantly recognizable as hers alone. A prolific composer for ensembles of all sizes and a performer who has appeared around the world, she was the recipient of a 2020 Instant Award in Improvised Music, in recognition of her “artistic intelligence, independence, and integrity.”

Since she burst onto the scene in 1996, Fujii has led some of the most consistently creative ensembles in modern improvised music. Highlights include a piano trio with Mark Dresser and Jim Black (1997-2009), and an electrifying avant-rock quartet featuring drummer Tatsuya Yoshida of The Ruins (2001-2008). 

In addition to a wide variety of small groups of different instrumentation, Fujii also performs in a duo with trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, with whom she’s recorded eight albums since 1997. She and Tamura are also one half of the international free-jazz quartet Kaze, which has released five albums since their debut in 2011. Fujii has established herself as one of the world’s leading composers for large jazz ensembles, prompting Cadence magazine to call her “the Ellington of free jazz.”

All tracks composed by Joe Fonda (GEMA) and Satoko Fujii, Koro Music (BMI) except #5 My Song by Joe Fonda and #8 Winter Sunshine by Satoko Fujii.

Sample three tracks below: