Gato Libre | Shiro | Libra Records

libra records 104-026

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

Recorded and mixed on August 31, 2009 by Katsumi Sgigeta at Epicurus Studios, Tokyo. Mastered on October 15, 2009 by Scott Hull at Masterdisk, NYC. Executive produver: Satoko Fujii. Artwork: Ichiji Tamura. Design: Masaka Tanaka. Photography: Tank

Tracklist: 1. Dune and Star [8:10]  2. Waterside [7:13] 3. Scorpion [6:10] 4. Falling Star [7:25] 5. Going Back Home [6:02] 6. Mountain, River, Sky [8:33] 7. Memory of Journey [6:01] 8. Shiro [7:32]

Gato Libre | Shiro | libra records

Gato Libre began as a duo

with Norikatsu Koreyasu on bass and myself on trumpet. After a few gigs we felt the need for a chordal instrument, so we got Kazuhiko Tsumura to join us on guitar. We also wanted an instrument that could provide a sustained, sad tone, so I asked Satoko Fujii if she’d like to play accordion. Fixating on the opportunity to eat the delicious curries served at Otoya-Kintoki, our live venue, Fujii immediately said yes — even though she didn’t own an accordion. At an instrument store in Kanda, Fujii picked up a Chinese-made accordion for 70,000 yen, the cheapest in the shop.

Its sound — loud and bright, cheap and plaintive — is perfect for Gato Libre. She still uses this instrument. That someone as lazy as I am could keep Gato Libre going until this, our fourth CD release, is largely thanks to Otoya-Kintoki, the live house where we play in Nishi-Ogikubo, Tokyo. As soon as we finish a performance there, regardless of whether customers showed up or not (usually the latter), the couple who run the place always ask us, “When can you play here next? Do you have an open date next month?” To which I say, “Are you sure that’s all right with you? Hardly anyone ever shows up at our gigs.” To which they warmly respond, “Never mind that, we like Gato!” If we didn’t have a place like Otoya-Kintoki at which to perform regularly, given my passive tendencies I’m pretty sure Gato would have long since gone out of business.

We are also blessed by a small but devoted cadre of fans who come to nearly every gig. Some travel from as far away as New York or the Hokuriku side of Japan. This makes me both grateful and dumbfounded. The world is a mysterious place and you never know what will happen. By some quirk or error of fate, who knows, Gato could suddenly become the next big thing. Yesterday at the Yokohama Arena, tonight at Otoya-Kintoki, tomorrow at Tokyo Dome . . . we could get used to that. — Natsuki Tamura (Translation by Alan Gleason)

A very fine set. Tamura is clearly emerging as one of the finest contemporary musicians and writers to emerge from Japan. His ability to conjure vivid colors and creates almost palpable textures on his horn is rapidly making for a new legend. ― Raul d’Gama Rose, All About Jazz

Gato Libre has a unique sound, and the playing is rich and soulful, making this free cat a special pleasure. Definitely recommended. ― Stuart Kremsky, The IAJRC Journal

This is certainly the most consistent and varied Gato Libre disc thus far…. ― Marc Medwin, Cadence Magazine

A highly melodic, occasionally haunting set that draws on folk as well as jazz, played by a trumpet, accordion, guitar and bass quartet. ― Jazz Journal

Tamura has produced sets as disparate as the electric sizzling Exit, the gentle and incantory solo disc Ko Ko Ko Ke, the radioactive Hada Hada and, with Gato Libre, a string of European folk musings including Shiro… Tamura’s career has largely been about dissolving musical boundaries. With Gato Libre and Shiro, the trumpeter extends his reach even deeper into the prettiest, most accessible of his endeavors. ― Dan McClenaghan, All About Jazz

… one of the best albums of the year, one that will resonate equally well with fans of Balkan and gypsy music as well as adventurous rock and jazz people. ― Alan Young, Lucid Culture

Playing in the Lester Bowie mode, he creates a very personal jazz statement, largely with just his trumpet voice front and center. ― Chris Spector, Midwest Record

Tamura’s compositions and his lead horn form the centerpiece of this album. He weaves melodies that retain a classic majesty even when they are stark, and within this mellow setting, he nevertheless inserts ideas that grab your attention. Shira is a Latin-flavored avant garde jazz that soothes, not confronts, and offers a unique melding of differing styles. Tamura proves once again why he has earned a reputation in improvised music circles as a top trumpeter, bandleader and composer. ― Victor Aaron, Something Else Reviews

4-stars. The music of Tamura and Gato Libre is sometimes surprising, often intense and always inventive… The sound is a combination of European folk, improvisational free jazz and expressive soundscapes. ― Mike Reynolds, MuzikReviews.com

Tamura calls it a noise band, and we say it is good noise! They play five of his original compositions starting with the title track that could easily serve as a score for a horror film… IT is one of the more intriguing free sessions that we’ve heard this year. ― D. Oscar Groomes, O’s Place Jazz Magazine

Gato Libre | Shiro | libra records

 

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2 thoughts on “Gato Libre | Shiro | Libra Records

  1. The elemental sadness of Natsuki Tamura’s trumpet, as it ascends the temperate scale he has created in “Dune and Star,” defines the desolate beauty of Shiro, the fourth album from duo-turned-quartet, Gato Libre. Tamura also evokes the soft colors and textures of dawn, dusk, and the time in between, as if it has been caught in a frieze. His horn—and the manner in which he paces himself on it—recalls Miles Davis’ memorable collaborations with Gil Evans. Davis eventually turned his back on that music, ostensibly because it was all “in the past,” but that far from types the music on this album as retrograde. Tamura’s work here is, at times, as molten as the bubbling lava of a volcano, set to spew its thick and hot stuff on the unsuspecting; at other times, its softness recalls paint forever wet and running down a vast canvas.

    On Shiro, Tamura plays with perfect intonation, pacing himself expertly. He enunciates like an orator rolling his “R’s,” and is seductive as he falls to near silence, save for the sound of his breath, as it passes heatedly through tube and bell. He gurgles at times, perhaps to recreate the rapid movement of a bubbling brook. Elsewhere, he is soft and sensuous, or sharp and incisive as the shimmering edge of a samurai’s sword. The trumpeter recalls tradition as much as he breathes contemporariness. He is joined by longtime bassist Norikatsu Koreyasu, with the addition of guitarist Kazuhiko Tsumura, who plays as expertly as a Moorish artist from the heart of Andalusia. Tamura’s wife, pianist Satoko Fujii completes the fabulous quartet here with her elongated, sad accordion notes.

    There are times when Tamura recalls the aching strains of Nino Rota’s music for a Francis Ford Coppola film. This might be a very apt parallel, as Tamura’s music is always evocative, and seems to be written with moving visuals accompanying it. His screams, and the silences that follow, almost conjure images of a garroting by a yakuza, as the fading end of “Falling Star” seems to suggest. How else could the music of “Mountain, River, Sky” have been conceived, other than by the horizontal melodies that he sings on his horn, as the other musicians climb vertically on their collective harmonic path? “Waterside” and “Scorpion” dazzle with their imagery of the pastoral, and the menagerie that accrues to that landscape. “Falling Star” has a distinct tinge of the nostalgic, while “Memory of Journey” recalls a caravanserai with the undulating quarter notes that wind up and down its melody, and “Shiro” is a vivid sketch of sharply chiseled features that creates a spectacular end to a very fine set.

    Tamura is clearly emerging as one of the finest contemporary musicians and writers to emerge from Japan. His ability to conjure vivid colors and create almost palpable textures on his horn is rapidly making for a new legend that will describe his work for several years to come.

  2. Japanese trumpeter Natsuki Tamura’s name is most often mentioned in the press for his work with his wife, Satoko Fujii. The Japanese pianist casts a blinding light with her prolific output, and a fearless and unfettered musical vision. Tamura sits in as either a sideman or collaborator on many, if not most, of her CDs.

    If Fujii is superhuman in her output as a leader, Tarmura is closer to mortal, though no less adventurous. He has produced sets as disparate as the electric, sizzling Exit (NatSat Music, 2004), the gentle and incantatory solo disc, Ko Ko Ko Ke (NatSat Music, 2004),the radioactive Hada Hada (Libra Records, 2003), and, with Gato Libre, a string of European folks musings including Shiro.

    The Gato Libre discs—Shiro is the fourth in the series—feature the Tamura/Fujii pairing at its most tranquil. The quartet—with Tamura using his trumpet in a mostly traditional, straightforward fashion (seldom the case)—also features bassist Norikatsu Koreya, guitarist Kazuhiko Tsumura, and Fujii, substituting accordion for her primary instrument, the piano.

    Gato Libre is not about individual virtuosity, though there is plenty to go around. These are explorations of the southern European sound in a relaxed, introspective, collaborative mode. The group sounds like a band of good friends gathered in a Spanish café at the end of a work week, breaking out the instruments after a good meal and glasses of red wine to create something intimate, something true to the simple beauty of the folk tradition.

    “Dune and Star” opens the disc, with Tamura’s solo trumpet issuing a plaintive cry. The mood is unhurried and timeless, as his band-mates join him in what sounds like a spare sketch from Miles Davis’ classic Sketches of Spain (Columbia, 1960).

    As soothing and tranquil as Gato Libre’s music can be, the quartet can also—no surprise with Tamura and Fujii involved—get quite “out there.” On “Scorpion,” the group disassembles the music to a point of near chaos, with Fujji’s jittery wheezing and Tamura’s pained wails in front of Koreyasu’s ominous bowed bass, until Fujii lets out a sigh of release, and the music gels back in the direction of tradition.

    Tamura’s career has largely been about dissolving musical boundaries. With Gato Libre and Shiro, the trumpeter extends his reach even deeper into the prettiest, most accessible of his endeavors.

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