Angelo Verploegen – trumpet | Misha Mengelberg – piano | Natsuki Tamura – trumpet | Satoko Fujii – piano
Recorded live by Dick Lucas for VPRO radio, Holland at the Bimhuis in Amsterdam on September 22nd 2005. The copyright of the VPRO of the tracks recorded by the VPRO. Mastered on 1st of June by Scott Hull at Scott Hull Mastering, New York. Executive producer: Natsuki Tamura. Design: Masako Tanaka.
Tracklist: 1. a butterfly, bee, mantins, and grasshopper [33:38] 2. a prescription [9:53]
When Huub van Riel, Artistic Director of the Amsterdam Bimhuis invited me to put together a concert program at my very own discretion, I didn’t have to think long about its contents. It was a long felt desire to play with the godfather of European improvised music, pianist / composer Misha Mengelberg, but rather not in a duo configuration, since too many players have done so before me. Considering possible alternatives, Satoko Fujii and Natsuki Tamura immediately popped into my mind. I’ve been a great admirer of their work ever since I got acquainted with it during the late nineties, when I was running the small Dutch independent new music label BUZZ Records.
Luckily Satoko and Natsuki were available and willing to come over to Holland in September 2005 to perform with Misha and me at my ‘carte blanche’ at the Bimhuis. Lucidly our set of improvised music worked out well and luckily the Dutch broadcast company VPRO was there to record it for one of their radio shows. So lucky me: having this .musical adventure now being released on this label. I’m very proud of it and wish to express my sincere gratitude to Huub van Riel for his invitation, Vera Vingerhoeds for joining in with the VPRO, Dick Lucas for his beautiful recording, and of course Misha, Satoko and Natsuki for taking on this musical exploration with me. — Angelo Verploegen
Angelo Verploegen | Photo by Job Groot
When Angelo Verploegen (trumpet) was invited to organize a concert
to be performed at the Bimhuis in Amsterdam, he first thought of Misha Mengelberg (piano). Verploegen had long wanted to play with Mengelberg, whom he appropriately calls the godfather of European improvised music. He realized that this would be a stale combination though, as the duo thing with Mingelberg had been done often enough. Verploegen considered alternatives, one of which was to expand the concept. He thought of Natsuki Tamura (trumpet) and Satoko Fujii (piano), both of whom were willing to travel to Holland.
This recording is the first collaboration between the four and the result is remarkably satisfying, but not surprising. All four have shown that they can pick a thread and unravel it. They can, as well, latch on to an idea and fill it with their own individuality.
The quartet finds creative common ground in the judicious use of space and time as they gather for “a butterfly, bee, mantis, and grasshopper. Tamura and Verploegen loosen squiggles, yelps, tart bursts and breathy interlocutions. The piano is a soothing messenger as Mengelberg instills melody both through quiet passages and fleet runs, and Fujii counterpoints on the strings. The pith comes in the conversation between Tamura and Verploegen, as they trade ripe ideas and gradually raise the intensity. With Mengelberg and Fujii continuing on their melodic discourse, this is an impressive juxtaposition of the free and the structured.
The duality is also seen on “A prescription. Mingelberg and Fujii propel the attack in a blaze of notes and powered chords and then settle into tranquil mode. Into the quiet come the trumpets, growling and inferring the blues to add a piquant flavor.
The CD runs under 44 minutes but the Double Duo makes every second meaningful. — Jerry D’Souza
Misha Mengelberg | Photo by Elton Eerkens
An improvisational session that manages to be at once rough-and-tumble and cool-and-collected. Just the right amounts of tension and self-restraint create an exquisite sense of space. — Shiro Matsuo, Music Magazine
Trumpeter Angelo Verploegen writes in the liner notes to Crossword Puzzle that when Amsterdam’s Bimhuis invited him to put together a new group, Fujii and Tamura were is immediate choice to mirror a duo of himself and pianist Misha Mengelberg… All in all it’s a fun disc, but when the group is comprised of composers as engaging as Fujii, Mengelberg and Tamura, it’s hard not to want more. — Kurt Gottschalk, All About Jazz
They (Mengelberg and Verploegen) converse and dovetail with the amazingly prolific team of trumpeter Natsuki Tamura and pianist Satoko Fujii in a uniquely textured and beautifully nuanced performance recorded live at Amsterdam’s Bimhuis… At 43:31 this music would have fit on a single vinyl LP and it feels just right: long enough to be satisfying and short enough to leave you wanting more. Crossword Puzzle is a poly-portmanteu packed with creative, adventurous music. — Bill Barton, Signal To Noise
Given the oddball instrumentation, this could have turned into a mush of sonic overload. Instead it’s a nuanced instant composition sculpted from silence… an enjoyable and unexpected encounter that provides yet another context in which to appreciate the prolific Fujii and Tamura. — Stuart Kremsky, IAJRC Journal
All four players sound like they had fun dueling with one another, the trumpets tooting and blurting while the pianos do delicate little dances… The four create a flowing, frisky half-hour of improvisation followed by a ten minute encore where the pianos frolic about like spring lambs. This is an experimental combination that works beautifully. — Jerome Wilson, Cadence
One long improvisation and one shorter encore piece make for a well-balanced set with the two pianists revealing an exceptional degree of empathy. Indeed their duos for me provided the highlights of this record. It’s a pairing one would like to hear more of. This is a fine example of the power of free improvisation to cross musical boundaries and produce music that is genuinely more than the sum of its parts. — Duncan Heining, Jazzwise
Even when the hard-playing soloists collide, they never destroy the overall flow. Maintaining a sure balance between construction and destruction, this is a multidimensional performance in which the players meticulously assemble their music one element at a time – just like words in a crossword puzzle. — Satoshi Kojima, Strange Days
With vibes that capture the better moments of Carla Bley or AEC, you can bet this is first-class malcontent music. A must for those that would rather sit when they dig their cerebral jazz. — Chris Spector, Midwest Record
The CD’s high point is the conclusion of “a butterfly…” showcasing a jocular back-and-forth brass dialog of corkscrewed growls, reaps, ratchets and sniffs while dueling pianos clink and clank behind them. — Ken Waxman, Coda
We’ve reviewed a lot of their releases and from the standpoint of creative artistry, this one is among the best… GREAT album, volkz! — Dick Metcalf, Improvijazzation Nation
Satoko Fujii | Photo by Tomasz Woźniczka / Izabela Lechowicz
Not so long ago I said
that there weren’t that many quartets with a double trumpet front line, well, here’s another one, and even more unusual, because there are two pianos as well, which explains the name of the band. Dutch free improvizers Angelo Verploegen en Misha Mengelberg on trumpet and piano invite Japanese master duo Natsuki Tamura and Satoko Fujii on the same instruments, for two long free improvizations, recorded live at The Bimhuis in Amsterdam. The first piece starts with an evocation of the sounds of nature, random notes like birds, with short melodyless counterpoints, joyous, sad, serious, plaintive, … The overall approach is pointillistic, painting notes on a white canvas, randomly at first, until new spaces are created with lots of room for the others to join, to add their thing, to withdraw and leave room again for the other artist. The result is interesting, because you rarely hear the four musicians at the same time, creating something more like scrabble than a crosswords puzzle, where each players awaits his turn to add letters on what the other one put on the board. Unlike many other free improv, the music is never “in your face”, but is rather unobtrusive, with quiet and subdued moments, altered with intense staccato crescendos, but never chaotic, with a little more impressionistic approach by Tamura and Fujii, the Dutch musicians sounding somewhat harder.
There are several really creative moments, such as when piano and trumpets produce phrases ending with a question mark, hesitantly moving up the scale with a somewhat sustained end-note, as if full of surprise and astonishment at what the other musicians brought forward. Tamura is the only one creating something close to a (march-like) melody after some twenty minutes in the first piece, over some total frenzy by the pianos and Verploegen’s echoing sounds, which suddenly stop for some voiceless trumpet-whispers by the Dutch trumpeter, as a start for the outro of the piece. The audience seems too perplexed at first to applaud and does so hesitantly and politely. The second piece is less abstract with a steady piano figure, eery and intense, with an anguished trumpet evolving to a shout-like repetition. The great strength of the double duo is that they manage to create a coherent approach to their own aesthetic, with lots of openness and creative interplay. Not easy listening, but rewarding. — Stef
Natsuki Tamura | Photo by Cees Van De Ven
CD version (incl. shipment cost world-wide)