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«Baikamo (梅花藻)»
LIBRA, 202-059

Toh-Kichi is the unlikely duo of prolific Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii and drummer Tatsuya Yoshida. She comes from modern and free jazz, known as a highly original and bold composer and bandleader, while he comes from prog-art rock (check his you-tube clips where he plays concise and brief prog-rock medleys) and like her leads countless bands, among them Ruins, Korekyojinn, Koenji Hyakkei and Zubi Zeva. Both are free spirits and both are indebted to John Zorn who released their albums on his Tzadik label. Yoshida also played with Zorn in the Painkiller trio (with Bill Laswell on bass).

Toh-Kichi was active last decade and released two albums, «Toh-Kichi 藤吉» (Victo, 2002) and «Erans» (Tzadik, 2004), in parallel to the work of Fujii Quartet (known also as the Vulcan quartet) with Yoshida and partner-trumpeter Natsuki Tamura and bass player Hayakawa Takeharu, that released five albums between 2001 and 2007. An organizer in Hiroshima offered Fujii and Yoshida the opportunity to reignite their burning, intense energy and both composed new material for this occasion. They  continued with a short tour, and after having so much fun again, recorded the new compositions live and in the studio on February and July 2019.

Fujii and Yoshida sound as if they have not stopped playing together all these years. Fujii and Yosjioda penned four composition each and another eight pieces are free improvisations. «Baikamo», titled after an aquatic flower, is a natural progression of «Toh-Kichi 藤吉» and Fujii’s «Rolling Down» captures beautifully a similar manic energy of previous sessions. This album explodes with joyful energy, flows with playful cat-and-mouse games – Yoshida’s «Climber’s High», and zig and zagging in many directions and always daring to take more and more chances and risks. There are obvious dissonances between these strong personalities. Fujii’s elaborate yet melodic ideas often clash with Yoshida’s muscular and rapid, mathematical-like, rhythmical patterns like on Yoshida’s «No Reflection» and «Aspherical Dance» or Fujii’s title-piece, but all in high-spirited and almost telepathic interplay. Toh-Kichi even end Baikamo with a cryptic poem with both Fujii and Yoshida vocalizing wordless, ethereal hymn-like song.

Eyal Hareuveni         

Satoko Fujii (p), Tatsuya Yoshida (dr)

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