August 11, 2018
By Ken Waxman
Putting aside the linear, Japanese-born pianist Yuko Fujiyama has created 15 musical color fields in duos, trios and quartets alongside sympathetic American associates, Jennifer Choi (violin); Susie Ibarra (drums and percussion) and Graham Haynes (cornet and flugelhorn). Moving between gentle formalism that usually involves solo piano sweeps and energetic group excursions, Fujiyama brings the same skill to each subset.
At the same time few tracks follow expected paths. The slimed-down “Premonition” for instance, is expressed as a relaxed piano-drums duet, with the subsequent “Indignation” a variable solo piano commentary on the previous track. With its frequent pauses though, “Beyond the Sound” may be the breeziest way of blending single piano key clips, xylophone metal clanks and cornet slurs; with the following “Waltz of the Shadows” extending those textures to the full keyboard and the ensuing “Autumn Whispers’ adding light drum touches to the program. In contrast, low-pitched rumbling from the pianist and drummer on “Night Wave” toughen Choi’s initially strict formalism so the violinist soon produces stabbing string tremors.
Oddly, “Up Tempo, the stand-out instance of energetic, atonal sounds is also the only tune which has Asian inflections, with the violin taking on stinging erhu-like properties. However Fujiyama’s sharp, discursive chording, Haynes’s urgent flutter-tongued obbligato and Ibbara’s positioned ratchets and rolls confirm the tone-splattering performance as bracing and decidedly Occidental.
Born in 1954, Fujiyama has waited many years to releaser her first CD. Still Night Wave confirms the old saw that good things come to those who wait.
-For MusicWorks Issue #131