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Satoko Fujii: Jazz, with a Little Japanese Rock for Good Measure

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MONTREAL -- Consider Satoko Fujii something of a late bloomer. Even though she started playing piano at the age of 4, she didn't realize that improvisation was her calling until she was 20, and she didn't start recording as a jazz musician until 1996, when she was in her late 30s.

Since then, however, the 49-year-old pianist and composer has made up for lost time. She has more than 50 titles in her discography, offering everything from solo sessions and duets to big band and rock albums.

“I'm addicted," she says with a laugh. “I just keep making CDs. I'm happy with doing that."

It's late June, and she and her husband, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, are sitting in a room at the Hyatt hotel in Montreal, where they will be performing at the jazz festival. A few days earlier, they played the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, where Fujii also played a duet with violinist Carla Kihlstedt. (This week, she and Tamura return to Canada to play the Guelph Jazz Festival with her newest quartet, Ma-Do.) “I have three quartets now," she says. “One is with Japanese [musicians], but more rock - very, very heavy rock feel." Not surprisingly, that group's audience draws more from the noise-rock underground than from jazz circles. “We get a lot of fans from that area, from [bands like] Boredoms or Melt-Banana, because the drummer plays in Ruins, which is also that kind of music," she says.

“Another one is with [bassist] Mark Dresser and [drummer] Jim Black, which would sound more like a cross between free improvisation and jazz. Not so much [the] heavy feel of rock.

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