Natsuki Tamura | Dragon Nat | Libra Records

libra records 101-032

Natsuki Tamura – trumpet

Recorded on September 21, 2012 by Mike Marciano at Systems Two, New York. Mastered on January 17, 2013 by Max Ross at Systems Two, New York.

Tracklist: 1. Shiro [5:50] 2. Dragon Nat [3/56] 3. Forever [6:33] 4. Dialogue [12:20] 5. In Berlin, In September [6:45] 6. Wunderbar [3:59] 7. World [4:36] 8. Matsuri [5:27]

Natsuki Tamura | Dragon Nat | libra records

NATSUKI TAMURA

Japanese trumpeter and composer Natsuki Tamura is internationally recognized for a unique vocabulary that blends extended techniques with touching jazz lyricism. This unpredictable virtuoso “has some of the stark, melancholy lyricism of Miles, the bristling rage of late 60s Freddie Hubbard and a dollop of the extended techniques ofWadada Leo Smith and tester Bowie,” according to Mark Keresman of JazzReview.com.

Tamura’s seemingly limitless creativity led Francois Couture in All Music Guide to declare that “… we can officially say there are two Natsuki Tamuras: The one playing angular jazz-rock or ferocious free improv… and the one writing simple melodies of stunning beauty… How the two of them live in the same body and breathe through the same trumpet might remain a mystery…”

Throughout his career, Tamura has led bands with radically different approaches. Most recently, he has led First Meeting, a quartet featuring pianist Satoko Fujii, drummer Tatsuhisa Yamamoto, and electric guitarist Kelly Churko, whose first CD, Cut the Rope was described as “a noisy, free, impatient album, and ranks among Fujii and Tamura’s most accomplished,” — Steve Greenlee, Boston Globe.

Since 2005, Tamura has focused on the intersection of European folk music and sound abstraction with Gato libre, a quartet featuring Fujii on accordion, Tsumura Kazuhiko on guitar, and Koreyasu Norikatsu on bass. The quartet’s poetic, quietly surreal performances have been praised for their “surprisingly soft and lyrical beauty that at times borders on flat-out impressionism,” by Rick Anderson in CD Hotlist. Dan McClenaghan in All About Jazz described their fourth CD, Shiro, as “intimate, something true to the simple beauty of the folk 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.” After the unexpected passing of Norikatsu in 2012, Tamura added trombonist Yasuko Kaneko to the group. The new configuration has toured Europe and Japan and plans to record soon.

Earlier bands led by the constantly exploring trumpeter have been very different in character. Peter Marsh of the BBC had this to say of the 2003 Natsuki Tamura Quartet release Hada Hada: “Imagine Don Cherry woke up one morning, found he’d joined an avant goth-rock band and was booked to score an Italian horror movie. It might be an unlikely scenario, but it goes some way to describing this magnificent sprawl of a record.”The collaborative trio Junk Box, which Tamura co-founded in 2006 along with pianist Fujii and drummer John Hollenbeck, plays Fujii’s “composed improvisations,” graphic scores that take “ensemble dynamics to great creative heights,” says Kevin Le Gendre in Jazzwise. Their music “is full of bluster and agitation that nonetheless retains moments of great melodic beauty, usually by way of concise, pertly pretty motijs that trumpeter Tamura plays in between bursts of withering roars that often dissolve into austere overtones.”

Since 1997, Tamura has recorded five CDs with his ongoing duo with pianist (and wife) Satoko Fujii and won accolades from critics and audiences alike. “The wife-husband team from Japan was simply brilliant,” says Steve Feeney of the Portland Press Herald. “Though their work has a fair amount of compositional structure, it consistently reveals a wide-open and unpredictable nature that makes its performance a thrilling ride for the listener.” In addition to their intimate duo performances, Tamura collaborates on many of Fujii’s own projects, including her Min Yon and ma-do quartet, and big bands in New York, Tokyo, Nagoya and Kobe. Born on July 26, 1951 in Otsu, Shiga, Japan, Tamura is a regular member of saxophonist-composer Larry Ochs’ Sax and Drumming Core, and performs as an unaccompanied soloist as well. He and Fujii are also members of Kaze, a collaborative quartet with French musicians trumpeter Christian Pruvost and drummer Peter Orins.

“As unconventional as he may be,” notes Marc Chenard in Coda magazine, “Natsuki Tamura is unquestionably one of the most adventurous trumpet players on the scene today.”

Natsuki Tamura | Dragon Nat | libra records

In contrast to his two previous solo trumpet albums

“Song For Jyaki” (Leo, 1997) and “KoKoKoKe” (MTCJ, 2004) Natsuki Tamura’s third solo album is less experimental, but adds in maturity and refinement.

Half the tunes are known from previous albums, and then specifically from his Gato Libre catalogue, with the titel tracks from “Shiro” and “Forever”, “In Berlin, In September”, from Nomad, “World”, also from Forever, “Dialogue” from “Strange Village.

Fans of Gato Libre will easily recognise the beautiful themes, yet Tamura has now stripped them to their bare essentials, even doing without the sometimes explicit rhythms that we know from the jazz folk band. Instead you get a gentle carressing of the music with the trumpet’s warm tone, full of intimacy and sensitivity. At the same time, he dares go beyond normal voiced tones, urging high pressure tones with urgency out of his instrument when appropriate, to offer contrast, to break the linear development, to keep attention span, and all this with the right dosage and control.

“Dialogue” starts with the most beautiful shifting tones, and is enhanced by the faintest rustling of chimes in the background, later followed by some light percussion and voicings. It is the longest track and the real pièce-de-résistance” of the album, if you can describe any of Tamura’s subtle, light and warm playing as such.

“Wunderbar” and “Dragon Nat” are new compositions. The former is jubilant almost, like a clarion of triumph, alternated with singing and percussion, turning the opening into a more spiritual incantation, then shifting it to theatre performance.

“Dragon Nat” is a surprise, consisting of dark growls, almost spoken, then evolving in fierce and hoarse howls, the most experimental part, and reminiscent of some of the hair-raising sounds that we know from his duo and quartet collaborations.

The lullabye-like “World” … now finally gets its trumpet part, as on the original this was played by bass, guitar and accordion only.

Tamura is a real world citizen of music, as familiar in traditional jazz, European folk as Japanse traditional music, as well as avant-garde. He has the amazing capability of integrating all these influences without diminishing any of the ingredients, but rather enhancing them, and all this while creating his own voice and sound full of artistic authenticity.

The closing tune on the album, “Matsuri”, says it all, taking the listener from the usual tender warmth over intense staccato moments to alarming pig squeals and back to normal.

Beautiful! — Stef

Natsuki Tamura | Dragon Nat | libra records

Manželský pár – trumpetista Natsuki Tamura (1951) a klavíristka Satoko Fujii

(u žen prý se rok narození neuvádí) – má na svém kontě už takřka nespočet kompaktů, na kterých oba přesvědčují o svém skladatelském či improvizátorském umění a hráčské brilanci. Od duetů přes soubory různorodého složení i až protikladného žánrového směřování po velké japonské či mezinárodní orchestry, to je zcela neobvyklý diapazon aktivity, v němž navíc nenalézáme hluchá místa. Dvě alba, která souběžně nahráli a vydali na svých perfektně vybavených Libra Records, jsou tentokráte však věnována jejich sólové prezentaci.

Tamura na osmi skladbách svého CD Dragon Nat nemusí hýřit ekvilibristikou, aby dokázal, že je mistr svého nástroje. Je střídavě ostýchavě zadumaný, slavnostně zvěstovatelský, hrčivě bručounský, hovořivě vřeštivý, odměřeně hartusivý, výbojně rozmáchlý i zavinovaně potichlý, dokáže svoji škálu rozvinout do rozčechraného rozvířena i večerkového přitlumena s efektem širodálavy, někdy skladbu vyzunkne jako pohár saké, jindy si dětinsky rozmazlenecky zašpásuje, ještě jindy si světácky zakumštuje s rozdvojkou trubky a hlasu plus zaperkusování, což může následovat šamanské zaříkávačství nebo brebentivá roztopášnost. Nejde však pouze o Tamurovo hráčské umění, jako skladatel ovládá nejrůznější finty od jednosměrné probouzivosti přes rozškálované vypravěčství po neholedbavou potichlost, ale do plynulé melodičnosti se nebojí zasáhnout výkřikovostí, až výbřeskným výřevem nebo skučivým povytím. Je to navrátivé album, plné uvážlivé krouživosti i jerichového vyvolavačství. Je věru sváteční (viz název poslední skladby – Matsuri).

Kdo viděl a slyšel Satoko Fujii při jejím pražském vystoupení na mezinárodním festivalu jazzového piana, který s takovou důsledností nabízí Petr Pylypov, odhadne, oč půjde na dvanácti zastaveních Gen Himmel. Vlastně neodhadne, protože na tomto albu je japonská klavíristka ještě zperfektněleji protikladná, dokazuje, jak umí propojit velebné uvelebování klávesnice s rozcuchaným strunozvučením nitra klavíru, jak po (nez)řízeném rumraji naváže rázně a pevně, a přitom citlivě klávesobraním, ve kterém je každý tón jako vypulírovaný, jak dokáže posluchače oslovit tu soumračným ztišením, tu kulminující přepršností a neponechá ho vydechnout. Dosavadní taylorovsko-bleyovské inspirační zdroje (samozřejmě při zachování naprosté svébytnosti!) se tu přehrnou do postmonkovského rozevírání témat, podepřených rytmicky s pichlavostmi a šramoty hloubkových sond do nástroje. Klavíristka lehounce přechází do nezbedné hravosti či prskoletného výtržnictví, aby je prostřídala prostopášnou vřavností, především však v její hře dominuje dvojrozměrnost, což znamená, že hlavní melodickou linii dopuje doplňky, protiřečenostmi, závažnost popichováním, protože má vždycky něco v záloze, co ozvláštní celkové vyznění skladby. Umí být vroucná, ale neleká se oduševnělého rabijátství, je vypravěčsky omamná, leč nelení bez otálení přejít do podtemperovaného hazardu nebo rumplujících výstřelností, je uvážlivě zasněná i přebíjivě zvonivá a někdy mi její projev připomene pohádku jen s pozměněným názvem: Tóny, z klavíru ven!

Nepotřebuje ke svým neobvyklým melodicko-rytmickým propojením dodávat nadbytečné efekty, naopak: nic „nerozcamrá“, nemíní schválnostničit, protože to nepotřebuje. V její hře je sice zasuto i cosi z japonské hudební tradice, je to však ústrojně překryto světem, tedy jejím hudebním světoběžnictvím, jež dotvrzuje zmíněnou svojskost. Až po závěrečný přeryv snu, nezakončenost Traumu, vešedšího v mžiku do tmy a prázdna. Tím spíše si chci Gen Himmel zopakovat.

A tak lze pouze dodat, že obě sólové desky jen znovu potvrzují výsostnost tohoto japonského páru, který v těchto chvílích v nejrůznějších seskupeních objíždí celý svět – od berlínských pódií až po Zornův Stone. Myslím, že by se Satoko Fujii měla do Prahy co nejdříve vrátit, tentokrát s manželem nejenom v obecenstvu a s přídavnými muzikanty, které dokáže usměrnit ke svému obrazu. A k potěše publika.– Z.K. Slabý

Natsuki Tamura | Dragon Nat | libra records

 

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One thought on “Natsuki Tamura | Dragon Nat | Libra Records

  1. The instrumentalist begins his career as, essentially, a solo artist. Whether is practicing long tones or scales or drum rudiments, nearly everyone who plays a musical instrument starts out unaccompanied. On the road to mastery, most musicians spend thousands of hours playing alone. In jazz, solo recordings by musicians other than pianists or guitarists are a relatively recent phenomenon, and the prospect of listening to a horn or drum soloist playing unaccompanied for an hour or more may seem daunting, both the the player and to the audience. To the listener, a solo performance may seem dry or arcane; after all we’re used to experiencing music as an interaction between several players. Daunting to the performer because-despite having spent so much time playing alone-he must lay his artistry bare for all to witness. There’s no hiding anything, whether it’s a missed note, or a lack of inspiration, or a one-dimensional playing style.

    Trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, already recognized worldwide as a visionary composer and improvisor from his work with his musical and life partner Satoko Fujii, is also an experienced solo performer. Dragon Nat, his third unaccompanied recording, and his first in 10 years since Ko Ko Ko Ke (Natsat Records, 2004). From the first moments of the opening track, “Shiro,” it’s quite apparent that Tamura has given the idea of solo performance a great deal of thought. Also, it’s interesting to hear re-configured versions of pieces such as “Forever,” and “In Berlin, In September,” that Tamura’s played with Gato Libre and in duet with Fujii. The most striking thing about Dragon Nat, is its simplicity and emotional directness. With a firm nod to the stripped-down, dark-hued, folk-inflected persona he adopts in his Gato Libre band, Tamura’s improvisations on Dragon Nat develop organically from his lovingly-crafted, singable themes. For much of the album, Tamura plays with great lyricism and warmth. The themes and improvisations on “Forever,” “World,” and “Shiro” are all quite approachable, though somewhat melancholy in tone. That isn’t to say he doesn’t experiment here. Making little use of mutes and the other usual tricks of the trumpeter’s trade, Tamura indulges in the sorts of things one would expect from an exciting, edgy player with heavy avant-garde cred. On the title track, he explores the very lowest registers possible on his instrument with little restraint and a great deal of wry humor. “Dialogue” has long stretches of breathy smears and high-register whirring sounds that suggest a desolate windswept landscape; these are interspersed with lovely melodic intervals that somehow increase the feeling of desolation. Tamura lightens the mood, however, with small percussion and game calls. On “Wunderbar,” Tamura expands his palette further to include a bit of theatrical spoken-word. Here, his mostly sotto voce vocal musings-interspersed with the rattling and jingling of small percussion-impart a sense of performance art or musical theater. Throughout, he makes artful use of partially-valved tones and multiphonics to create a wide array of textures.

    If an unaccompanied solo trumpet album seems like an audacious and bold move, Natsuki Tamura defies expectations by wholeheartedly embracing a low-key, personal approach on Dragon Nat. Rich in melody and muted drama, Tamura spins his brassy tales with the pacing and humanity of an expert storyteller.

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