The orchestral work «Imagine Meeting You Here» of Australian pianist-composer Alister Spence was developed as part of his doctoral PhD in creative practice. Spence wrote a large-scale work for an improvising orchestra and suggested Japanese pianist-composer Satoko Fujii and the Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra (GIO) to write this work for their respective orchestras. Both Fujii and GIO welcomed Spence initiative. Spence has collaborated before with Fujii on several projects and appeared on two releases of Fujii’s series of albums celebrating her 60th anniversary – the quartet Kira Kira and the duo with Fujii, «Intelsat» (Both on Libra, 2018). Spence also recorded two duo albums with GIO’s sax player Raymond MacDonald.
Spence describes the complex «Imagine Meeting You Here» as attempting to balance his own ideas of energies and weight, tempo and rhythm versus the orchestra’s musicians personal ideas, and as a platform for different improvisational contexts for solos, duos, trios, and larger ensembles from within the orchestra. Some of key segments of this five-parts work were designed as an investigation of textural elements, as breath or key click sounds, while other segments were more tonal.
Spence performed «Imagine Meeting You Here» with three Japanese Orchestras of Fujii – the Tokyo, Nagoya and Kobe Orchestras in February 2016 and in November 2016 performed this work in GIO’s annual festival, GioFestIX. The recorded version with Satoko Fujii Orchestra Kobe was captured live at Kobe Big Apple jazz club in September 2017. Orchestra Kobe, with Spence as the conductor and Fujii as the pianist, turned out to be a perfect match. This Orchestra performs this fascinating work with great passion, engaging sense of invention and irresistible energy.
Each part of «Imagine Meeting You Here» highlights distinct compositional strategies of Spence work and individual and collective qualities of the Orchestra Kobe. The first part, «Imagine», begins with hypnotic shakuhachi theme, played by sax player Eiichiro Arasaki, soon abstracted by the whole orchestra, keeping the peaceful, ceremonial pulse until it suddenly explodes with wild and fiery solos of Arasaki and trumpeter Natsuki Tamura. The second part, «Meeting», employs a familiar element from the orchestral works of Fujii – cacophonous, nonsensical vocalizations of all the musicians – as introduction for this piece and builds on that collective, spontaneous chaos more contrasting layers as contrapuntal melodies layered over an odd-meter 5/4 beat. The third part, «You», deepens the cacophonous-conflictual vein and divides the orchestra into four autonomous units, each with its own conductor-performer, and all units offering overlapping gestures, some are humorous and suggest game-like interplay, others weave the tension carefully, until all unite for thel coda. The fourth part «Here» takes the rhythmic games of the previous piece even further and suggests a series of intense yet playful melodies and countermelodies, eventually channelled into a powerful collective improvisation. The finale, «Postscript», returns to the serene, lyrical atmosphere of the opening piece, and here Spence employs the full orchestra for brilliant collective textural and then modal improvisation.
I guess that the mutual musical adventures of Spence and Fujii keep on beyond her 60th anniversary. I hope that both would enrich our lives with many more gems like «Imagine Meeting You Here».
Ko Iwata (as), Yasuhisa Mizutani (as), Eiichiro Arasaki (ts, shakuhachi), Tsutomu Takei (ts), Keizo Nobori (bs), James Barrett (tp), Shojiro Yokoo (tp), Natsuki Tamura (tp), Rabito Arimoto (tp), Yusuke Imanishi (tb), Yasuko Kaneko (tb), Takumi Seino (g), Satoko Fujii (p), Hiroshi Funato (b), Yoshikazu Isaki (dr), Alister Spence (cond)