Foundry 616, November 14


Satoko res
Satoko Fujii. Photo: Stefan Postius.

Unlike on Kira Kira’s album, Bright Force, it was not the maelstroms of energy that were so transfixing here, but the softer passages. Twice during the hour-long suite – in which composed elements provided pathways and signposts for very open improvising – the dynamics and energy dropped away to little sonic trails: what you might hear in music’s graveyard. After dark. These were diminutive, spidery sounds, often reminiscent of those to be found in nature, but made by small, shy creatures – or ghosts. The five-way interplay, meanwhile, was enthralling.

This Australian/Japanese band, here for the Sydney International Women’s Jazz Festival, featured Satoko Fujii (piano), Natsuki Tamura (trumpet), Alister Spence (Fender Rhodes and effects), Lloyd Swanton (bass) and Toby Hall (drums). Their maelstroms, although still compelling, were blighted by the laser-beam trumpet being over-amplified. When the music turned ghostly, by contrast, Tamura’s contributions were among the most intriguing. Between the extremes the music bucked and plunged from ensemble sections to assorted duets and solos, including Swanton at his most inventive, Fujii, with her array of ways of playing inside the piano, and Spence treating his Rhodes with such a plethora of effects as to create sonic labyrinths in which one could lose oneself.

At least as enthralling as Kira Kira was JACHLO, the wildcard support duo of Chloe Kim (drums) and Jacques Emery (double bass), whose sonic palette was, on some levels, even broader than the quintet’s. It ranged from the freest improvising to more ritualised music; from Emery treating his bass as a percussion instrument (at one point sounding like the metallophones of a gamelan ensemble), to extracting the most diaphanous harmonics, while Kim is the first percussionist I’ve heard forge an approach drawing on the innovations of Australia’s master-drummer, Simon Barker. Yet as much anything to do with the individual flair, this was music defined by the pair’s keen instincts as improvisers of when to when to work on parallel trajectories, when to engage in dialogue and when punctuate each other’s sentences. You will hear much more of them.