The twinkling chords which open Ami Fukui’s debut album Urban Clutter from 2010 shine like a crystalline spotlight, signaling the immediately satisfying sounds and clean, uncomplicated feel-good grooves of the music to come. This first album from the jazz pianist lays down the groundwork for Fukui to showcase her compositional skills for jazz piano trio, which she will explore further on her follow-up albums Amizm (2013) and New Journey (2016).

The overall sound and improvisation favor texture-building over flash. Rather than an overload of bebop feats, free jazz, or abstract outside playing, here attention is paid to structure and texture - the musical vibe, rhythm, and riffs. As in the forest for the trees, the focus seems to be on immersing the listening in the comfortably cool and mostly mid-tempo music. For example, “Denim” is a welcoming 3/4-meter with a strong hook and a warm sound. Other tracks such as “Refrain” and “Signal” roam over adventurous territory with a modern odd-beat structure, snazzy angular and compelling shapes with a drum-focused solo ending while the piano and bass vamp.

Favoring the slicker style popular in some modern jazz releases over the classic, “vintage feeling” of swing-based beats, the group excels at simple yet cohesively interlocked musical patterns. Drummer Sohnosuke Imaizumi and bassist Koji Yasuda in particular bring a lot to the music, crafting the strong and balanced bottom end and rhythms that frame Fukui’s compositions so well. In particular, Imaizumi’s special light touch and syncopated zest elevate the music even further, enhancing the music with unobtrusive yet cleverly-timed punctuations.

A translation of the liner notes:

ORGANIC SHOWER

This song started when my younger brother asked me to create original music for a project as he was going to video school. To that, I added a chorus and it became this song. As the image related to the feeling of a flower extending and growing, the title was “Organic Growth”, but inside I felt as if waves were sparkling, so with that image I choose the title “Organic Shower”.

DENIM

This song was inspired by a type of incense with the brand name “Denim”. I made the song by consciously using the three elements of humming, a 3-beat meter, and gospel style.

REFRAIN

Similar to Morse code, I like when chords change as the same note continues to be played, and perhaps there are many of those songs in my originals. This is one of those songs. This time, it was a song I composed while addicted to the 7-beat meter, with the key being the last 32 measures in particular.

ZAI JIAN

It’s a song I wrote inspired by some influences after returning from last year’s trip to Shanghai… or so I thought, but somehow this was a song I did before then (laughs). I like this word for “let’s meet again” and made it the title.

MOJITO

I realized in this composition I was able to make a song in club style. I made a kick during a drum solo because I wanted to make something that would make So-chan (Sohnosuke Imaizumi) on drums groan, I made a feature with a drum solo in the middle. I wonder if that is the selling point (laughs).

RAIN

This was made in the image of the title. I like how the bass starts playing the motif and the piano continues it, and from there the shape gradually changes. From light rain to heavy rain… Then light rain again… I choose an image similar to how the scenery changes. Koji’s bass solo fits this image perfectly.

SIGNAL

When I went to New York, the ringing of sirens from morning through nighttime left quite an impression. This impression is reflected in the eighth measure of the theme. It sounded like this to me (haha)! This is a song where I started with the supposition that it would be nice to hear the guitar tone as a backdrop. Together with the 5-beat meter, I like the special feeling of floating.

VELOCITY OF THE LIGHT

I wrote this song thinking that it would be great if it would change tempos freely, becoming faster and slower throughout the song.

NOVELLA

As a challenge, I thought to myself why don’t I try to make something majestic and classical-like, different from my previous compositions? I made this while thinking of the Church of Santa Maria Novella in Italy, where I would like to visit someday.

URBAN CLUTTER

This is a song I wrote about 4 years ago which I rearranged for this recording. I really wanted to include this song as it could be said to be my starting point. But of course, my tastes have changed between then and now, so I tried to use the original version and see if I somehow could incorporate my current feelings. In that sense, with the passage of time, I think that who I am now somehow came out most. I hope you can feel the darkness if only a little.

Ami Fukui

Urban Clutter by Ami Fukui Trio

Released in 2010 on Anturtle Analog Recordings as ANTX-4008.

Japanese Names: Ami Fukui 福井亜実 Koji Yasuda 安田幸司 Sohnosuke Imaizumi 今泉総之輔



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© Brian McCrory 2021
Dec 30, 2021