Gato Libre | Forever | Libra Records

libra records 104-030

Natsuki Tamura – trumpet | Satoko Fujii – accordion | Kazuhiko Tsumura – guitar | Norikatsu Koreyasu – bass

Recorded on September 14, 2011 by Masao Misuze at Otaya Kintoki, Tokyo. Mastered on October 5, 2011 by Scott Hull at Masterdisk, NYC. Executive producer: Satoko Fujii. Artwork: Ichiji Tamura. Design: Masako Tanaka. Photography: Itsuya Nishikawa

Tracklist: 1. Moor [8:09] 2. Court [9:10] 3. Hokkaido [9:42] 4. Waseda [5:28] 5. Nishiogi [8:29] 6. Japan [5:15] 7. World [4:40] 8. Forever [8:38]

Gato Libre | Forever | Libra Records

This CD “Forever” is the fifth album released by Gato Libre

and sadly, the final one by the group in its original lineup. Bassist Norikatsu Koreyasu suddely passed away in September 2011. No doubt he is out there somewhere, making a fool of himself even as he makes great music.

Gato Libre started as a duo consisting of Koreyasu and me. In venues like Knuttel House in Kappabashi, Tokyo, we explored the radical combination of trumpet and bass as we attempted to make music that was unaffected, not necessarily dramatic, but plaintive and maybe a bit mysterious. Later we added guitar and accordion and began performing under the name Gato Libre. But when I fist pictured playing in a duo with a bassist, someone with a deep, compelling siund and a broad musical vision, I immediately thought of Koreyasu.

So we began recording, then touring in Japan, and eventually overseas … admittedly a though schedule, but even so, Koreyasu’s whining was incessant. He seemed to have a year-round cold, and was always saying, “I don’t feel good …This is too hard … “Normally you’d expect someone feeling under the weather to be quieter than usual, bot not Koreyasu. “This is no time of night to be aeting dinner!” he’d gripe – then, when he got to the restaurant, he’d order more food than anyone else. And afterward, he’d complain that he had a stomach ache from overeating.

“Wake me up when you go down to breakfast. I don’t like eating breakfast alone,” he’d say – then, when I phoned him in the morning, it would be, “Huh? Breakfast? Nah, I’m going to sleep some more.” An exasperating fellow. But when this same Koreyasu got on stage and began to play, he produced a sound that enthralled audiences around the world. When he performed, he so deeply immersed himself in the music that he drew everyone along with him. Cheers of “Wonderful!” and “Amazing!” greeted him wherever we went.

Listening to him from my vantage point on the same stage, I was often just as moved as the audience. Damn, that’s a nice sound, I’d say to myself.

I don’t think there is another bassist who cares as much about his sound as Koreyasu did. I believe he was able to create the music he did precisely because he had an ideal sound in his mind that he pursued relentlessy. Even after a gig was over, he would still be fiddling around, trying this and that to get an even better sound. How many musician do that?

He created a sound, and a music, that was utterly devoid of lies. To Norikatsu Koreyasu, our eternally beloved musical fool, we dedicate “Forever.” — Natsuki Tamura
Gato Libre | Forever | Libra Records

Norikatsu Koreyasu | Photo by Joze Pozrl

Gato Libre | Forever | Libra Records

 

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3 thoughts on “Gato Libre | Forever | Libra Records

  1. Gato Libre is the most unexpected manifestation of the multifaceted collaboration between trumpeter Natsuki Tamura and pianist Satoko Fujii. This understated quartet of bass, acoustic guitar, trumpet and accordion creates a sound world that is totally unique: serene, atmospheric, and seemingly contrary to the duo’s other collaborative musical ventures. Gato Libre’s music isn’t a fusion or cross-cultural adventure, though it seems to have started out that way. Instead, Tamura, Fujii and their colleagues have devised a music that exists sui generis. At various times, Forever recalls the work of early 20th Century composers, particularly Erik Satie and Béla Bartók, French bal-musette, gypsy jazz, and, in its darkest moments, the 1980s Belgian Darkwave, as exemplified by the earliest recordings of groups such as Art Zoyd and Univers Zero. These resemblances, it must be stressed, are completely unintentional.

    Tamura is the chief creative force behind the group. Most of the compositions on Forever have a central, Satie-like melodic kernel with bridges and solo sections that radiate outwards like ripples on a pool of still water where a stone has been dropped. Tamura’s pieces turn from tuneful consonance to extreme dissonance and slowly back, governed by an inscrutable logic. Moderate-to-slow tempos dominate, yet Tamura clearly loves the use of rhythm to build tension— “Court” and “Japan” are hung on heavily syncopated, oddly accented guitar, bass, and accordion parts. Though every track on Forever has a solo or two, the improvisations themselves tend to be understated and spacious, proceeding at a pace that is both unworried and unhurried.

    Throughout, Tamura plays his trumpet open, without mutes. Forever’s live recording does no favors for Tamura’s bold, bright sound, yet his direct, lyrical approach more than offsets the unflattering room sound. His solo on “Moor” is both deliberate and beautifully constructed. His finest moment on Forever comes during “Hokkaido,” where he wanders quixotically over a series of bass and accordion drones, building slowly to a fever pitch before releasing his grip to make way for a lovely guitar-bass dialogue.

    Though Fujii’s accordion playing seemed tentative on the quartet’s first couple of recordings, her playing has become increasingly bold and stylized, taking cues from the likes of Pauline Oliveros and Guy Klucevsek. She revels in the instrument’s unique properties and sound possibilities on the stormily dissonant “Nishiogi,” approaching the accordion as a wind instrument, wringing out long sustained tones whose trajectories she alters mid-flight. Most of Gato Libre’s jazz content comes courtesy of the fluid, limber guitarist Kazuhiko Tsumura, who solos most effusively on “Moor” and “Hokkaido.” Bassist Norikatsu Koreyasu, who tragically died shortly after this recording, maintains a Charlie Haden-like presence, anchoring the trio of high-pitched instruments with deep, earthy tones. His arco solos on “Waseda” and “World” are wonderful—pitch perfect and horn-like in their articulation and mobility.

    Forever is yet another strangely beautiful and spellbinding creation from two of the most significant musicians in the world today.

  2. Innovative trumpeter Natsuki Tamura is a creative artist with a wide repertoire that draws as much from modern improvised music as it does jazz and world folk heritages. Often a key collaborator in wife/pianist Satoko Fujii’ inimitable ensembles, he emerges as a leader of the unique quartet Gato Libre on its fifth release, Forever.

    Tamura’s compositions have a strong Spanish flavor and brim with subtle yet robust creative spontaneity. On “Moor,” the longing sound of Tamura’s light vibrato contrasts with Fujii’s edgy, restless accordion as she backs his lilting horn. The subsequent three-way conversation between Fujii, guitarist Kazuhiko Tsumura and bassist Norikatsu Koreyasu is densely complex and stimulating, without losing Tamura’s troubadour-like lyricism.

    Fujii abandons her customary piano for the accordion, on which she demonstrates a sonorous virtuosity and her typical harmonic sophistication. Her elegiac tones shimmer like evening lights off dark water on the Mediterranean sounding “Nishiogi.” Backed by Tsumura and Koreyasu’s pizzicato rhythms, Fujii’s angular poetry conjures the pensive romanticism of a quiet seaside evening.

    This vaguely maritime theme runs through the album. The cinematic “Hokkaido” features Fujii and Koreyasu’s atmospheric, undulating drone, buoying Tamura’s martial and stately notes that evolve into a baroque improvisation. Tsumura’s flamenco-ish, passionate guitar stylings dominate the bittersweet mood of the tune’s second half.

    Such western classical hints are apparent elsewhere as well. “Waseda,” for instance, showcases Koreyasu’s cello-informed sonata, while Tamura’s statement of the theme is reminiscent of Joaquin Rodrigo’s classic “Concierto de Aranjuez.”

    The sublime musicianship is not limited only to individual solos but it also runs strong in the ensemble work, particularly in the congenial and congruent exchange among band members. The languid and melancholic title track is a pair of diaphanous dialogues on a hot Andalucían summer afternoon. The cool yet passionate guitar and trumpet song melts into the wistful musings of bass and squeezebox. Fujii and Tamura open “Japan” as a contemplative duet, with Tsumura’s walking strings enhancing the Zen-like aura of this melodic and quietly compelling piece.

    With Forever, Tamura and Fujii once again demonstrate their universal facility with musical genres. They not only bend them; they shatter the boundaries between them and do it with creative grace and intelligent elegance.

  3. The team of pianist Satoko Fujii and trumpeter Natsuki Tamura produces a lot of music. More often than not, it’s Fujii in the leader’s chair, in one of her numerous big bands, quartets, trios or in duo outings with Tamura. By normal standards—that is, not in comparison with Fujii—Tamura’s output as a leader could be considered rather busy. Though he claims to be lazy in the liner notes of his group Gato Libre’s Shiro (Libra Records, 2009), since 2005 he has produced five excellent CDs. Not bad for a lazy guy.

    Forever the fifth outing by Gato Libre, follows the same path as the group’s previous four sets, with the tranquil, European-flavored quartet still with its original line-up of trumpeter Tamura, who is again joined by Fujii—on accordion—along with acoustic guitarist Kazuhiko Tsumara and bassist Norikatsu Koreyasu.

    Over the course of seven years and five discs, Gato Libre has evolved in small increments with a subtle grace. The sound is light and delicate, the atmosphere calm and meditative. Forever finds the group’s interplay more focused and refined, more song-like and lyrical. Tamura has to be regarded in the top level of jazz trumpeters, with his dark and dusky tone and unhurried delivery of beautiful melodies, as Fujii often lays down a drone backdrop, sometimes not sounding quite like an accordion, as she makes music that seems to mirror what many groups try to do via electronics and synthesizers, while Kazuhiko and Koreyasu generate gentle and diaphanous rhythms.

    Tamura is one of the most adventurous artists out there. One only need to hear his solar flare of a disc Hada Hada (Libra Records, 2003) or his collaborative group First Meeting’s Cut the Rope (Libra Records, 2010) to get shaken away from all normal expectations for what music should be. But his Gato Libre discs tread the most consistently traditional path, and serve up some of the most lilting and beautiful sounds in the Tamura/Fujii oeuvre.

    Sadly, Forever will be the last of the Gato Libre recordings with the original line-up owing to the passing of bassist Norikatsu Koreyasu in September 2011. Though the group will live on, Tamura doesn’t want to bring in another bassist. He has been using guest artists in his shows—trombone, tuba, percussion—and says a final choice will be made on a new regular member soon, and Natsuki Tamura and his group will be off in a new direction.

    New directions—for Natsuki Tamura and Satoko Fujii—are a constant.

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