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When is comes to Yamiyo Ni Karasu, which translates to “the crow in the dark night”, we get to hear Tobira truly come into their own. Initially billed as Satoko Fujii’s New Trio with Tamura lending an ocaisonal hand, their debut album was pretty good. With Tamura fully on board, they are even better. In fact, he starts Yamiyo Ni Karasu all by himself with a good sixty seconds of trumpet flatulence before drummer Takashi Itani begins to rattle his sticks (Fujii admits that she appreciates her husband’s musical sense of humor, his ying to her rather serious-minded yang). Before long the quartet has lunged into Bad Plus territory where Fujii’s minor-key piano figures, drunk on octaves with easy up-and-down motion, pack enough of a punch alongside Itani and bassist Todd Nicholson to make Ethan Iverson and company feel a tad bit nervous. As with Ichigo Ichi, the first 13 minutes ofYamiyo Ni Karasu are stuffed with enough highs and lows to last an entire album—which it does.
And just like this, Satoko Fujii uses two gutsy albums to secure at least one spot for jazz’s 2015 highlight reel. Fujii and Tamura continue to perform to a very limited niche audience, but they are just too damn good at what they do to cast them off as some esoteric act only to be consumed by music students. They create jazz music, distilled down to the most artistic elements, and present it in a way that can’t be called inaccessible. You have to work to get it, but it’s very much worth the effort as it always has been. popmatters