A few years ago, deep in a fever of collecting releases by the Japanese label Flau, I learned of Masayoshi Fujita. One of a kind, he’s a vibraphonist, exploiting the often-overlooked instrument in any way he can imagine, but always keeping it at the center of serene, meditative compositions.
Book of Life, his latest, comes out this week on Erased Tapes, the final album in a trilogy that began in 2012: “There is a story or a scenery behind each song on all three albums, some of them are connected or part of a series,” Masayoshi said. “For me, these songs are similar to playing cards: some of them have the same suit or the same motif, some look minimal and others have more complex drawings.”
It would be reductive to say Masayoshi Fujita’s style has evolved — his mastery reveals itself not when he’s branching out but when he’s dialing in — though he’s nevertheless expanded his palette, working initially from improvisations and incorporating an esteemed neoclassical orchestra of Peter Broderick, Hatis Noit (check her out!), David Allred, and the vocal ensemble Shards (wait, check them all out).
“I scratched the vibraphone bar as if I was writing something,” Masayoshi said. “An image connected in my mind: these two people meeting and sharing their lives. This image was the book of life.” Perhaps it’s no surprise that in an overwhelmingly chaotic year there is music of such clarity. I feel like a stress knot in the face of Masayoshi Fujita’s music, but untied by the incredible focus he brings he to it. Wew.