Ryo Fukui is a prolific jazz pianist from Japan based out of Sapporo where he made his way playing at the Slowboat Club and while his career spanned only four total records, they are all fantastic looks into the beauty and grasp of a national recording artist. Fukui makes an effort to capitalize on his ivory prowess, launching a wave of power, grace, and soul that transpires through his music and truly emotes alluring attractions of instrumental glory.
His 1976 album, Scenery is gentle in the first stages but eventually goes through several transitions of metamorphosis where a distant rumbling of bass and percussion is soon brought into the foreground as Ryo Fukui can unleash a shining example of mastering multiple emotions in several sections. From the opening track, “It Could Happen To You” where it is the shortest track present on Scenery, but also a track that proves Fukui’s immaculate talent. Switching from steady rhythms to sporadic hammering of the keys, Fukui is a legend in his craft, making serious advancements through his sound. Even as the keyboard is thumping steadily along, the other instruments, both the percussion and bass are important in forming the overall sound as well. Their power is almost just as important as Fukui on the keys and the two players Fukui uses are incredible in keeping both the subtly and the forcefulness at a point of never overpowering each other. The constant duality is only further displayed as Scenery continues and becomes ever more clear.
As Fukui moves onto one of his proclaimed masterpieces, “Early Summer,” the keys become a simple extension of Fukui’s movement. He moves what seems like effortlessly between his machine and does an outrageous job of managing to output different sequences that would make the standard person’s head spin. He is fantastic at what he does and his sudden tempo changes that shift everything up to level eleven is awe-inspiring. Listening to Scenery for the first time is similar to finding a jazz gold mine, each note that Fukui plays ultimately contributes to the final product of immense glory. The sporadic playing that follows midway through “Early Summer” is challenging to even listen to, as it is so incredibly fast and while it shows a pattern, Fukui and his band move together so fluently almost as one single entity of sound.
Even in the final moments of Scenery, Ryo Fukui still progresses with a great amount of emphasis on keeping the energy continuously live and fresh. There is no track that sounds similar, even as all the tracks are seguing together nearly perfectly. Because of this, Scenery feels much shorter than it actually is. The barely 40-minute record is a national treasure to jazz and needs to become acknowledged for the sheer beauty that Fukui possesses through his music. From the somber self-titled track, “Scenery,” to the blast on “Early Summer,” Scenery is a wonder of noise and sound that echoes in the mind years after the first listen. The replayablility and the downright attractive nature makes jazz feel like a new experience once again, even after hundreds of plays in the late nights to the early mornings.