Five Minutes with...Satoko Fujii

Five Minutes with...Satoko Fujii

Japanese avant-garde jazz pianist and composer Satoko Fujii has transformed herself into a wunderkind of jazz improvisation. Critics and fans alike hail pianist and composer her as one of the most original voices in jazz today. A truly global artist, she splits her time between Berlin and Japan and tours internationally leading several ensembles.

As an improviser, Fujii is equally wide-ranging and virtuosic. In her solos, explosive free jazz energy mingles with delicate melodicism and a broad palette of timbre and textures.

Satoko will be playing in the final show of the Summer Session with KAZE including trumpeter (and husband) Natsuki Tamura, along with trumpeter Christian Pruvost and drummer Peter Orins from the French improvisers collective, Muzzix.

We spoke to Satoko to gain an understanding of what has driven her to become the outstanding virtuoso she is today.

Tell us about your time in Boston and how this influenced your
musical direction

I have enjoyed two periods of time in Boston, the first was from 1985 to 1988 where I studied Berklee College of Music and I returned to Boston in 1993 to study at New England Conservatory for three years.

While I was already considered a professional musician in Japan, studying at New England Conservatory with the likes of Paul Bley, Joe Maneri, Jimmy Giuffre and George Russel really allowed me to revolutionise my style. It was during this time that I started to accept myself and allow my own voice to truly evolve.

Who are your biggest musical influencers?

There are so many musicians and artists I have influenced me over the years, but I think the biggest one is Natsuki Tamura - my husband and a great musician. We have very similar values but we are very different in the way we approach the things, including music. I am always strongly influenced by his approach.

Satoko and Natsuki playing together at the Vortex, London

What do you love most about improvising in front of an audience?

I myself don't know what is coming out. I enjoy sharing it with my audiences and making something together with them.

Why have you chosen Berlin as one of your main bases?

There are so many reasons.

1) Natsuki and I had never lived in Europe and wanted to experience it.

2) There are so many great musicians and artists live in Berlin now.

3) I think Berlin is the last big city in the world that’s not powered by making money. If you look at other big cities like NYC, Tokyo, London, Paris etc. I can sense they are made by money. I mean without having money it is very difficult to make the things happen. But in Berlin there is some space for creative people. We can afford to live there and it’s not an expensive city.

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