Natsuki Tamura | Elliot Sharp | Takayuki Kato | Satoko Fujii | In the Tank | Libra Records

libra records 104-011

Natsuki Tamura – trumpet | Elliot Sharp – soprano saxophone, guitar | Takayuki Kato – guitar | Satoko Fujii – piano

All pieces are composed by Tamura, Sharp, Kato and Fujii. Recorded Live at Sakura-mate, Kumagaya, Japan on March 20, 2001. Mastered by Elliot Sharp. Executive producer: Natsuki Tamura. Art & design: Shikikatsu Nakamura

Tracklist: 1. Walking Squid [10:40] 2. Flying Jellyfish [21:13] 3. Sinking Shrimp [14:51] 4. Crowing Crab [22:02]

Natsuki Tamura | Elliot Sharp | Takayuki Kato | Satoko Fujii | In the Tank | libra records

Satoko FujiiNatsuki Tamura | photo by Ryo Natsuki

Live concerts strive for a transcendent quality

that can never be translated into CD form. This is especially true for free improvisation, and In the Tank is archetypical of this fact. Natsuki Tamura (trumpet), Elliott Sharp (soprano sax and guitar), Takayuki Kato (guitar) and Satoko Fujii (piano) recorded this concert in 2001 in Japan. The uncomfortable stillness of the record begs the question: who went to this concert, and was it worth it?

In the Tank is often hazy, incoherent, chaotic and aimless—all the things (and more) that are really best understood when the musicians are right in front of you. Often during a live concert, the musicians’ facial expressions, the frustration in their creased brows, the fumbling fingers struggling to let the notes flow, and the shared glances are even more important to the music than the notes themselves.

Because In the Tank falls under the category of a live recording as well as an avant-garde project, it has a natural inclination to leave its listener in the dark. Moreover, with no drummer present, it is difficult to grasp the themes and goals being sought by the quartet. Yet, once you latch on to the periodic beat of the gonging bells in “Crowing Crab or the steadying hand on the piano harmonies in “Flying Jellyfish, the musicians’ strategies start to emerge. Actually, their ideas are more like quicksand—every time you manage to figure out what the ensemble is trying to do, they sink back into their hidden recesses, leaving you in limbo.

The recording consists mostly of bizarre noises that often reverberate throughout, presenting themselves in different textures. Coins and other unknown objects clang to the floor, and metal springs are snapped back like rubber bands. Strange, mysterious electric drips and drops permeate through the quicksand, while a plucked guitar (Sharp/Kato) and a tinny saxophone (Sharp) give the music momentary stability. Still, the quicksand submerges in itself again, and the noise comes back. The noise is quiet, far into the distance, but it’s there and it stands out even more than Fujii’s swaggering piano chords and Tamura’s whining trumpet vibrato.

Perhaps the album cover best conveys the texture of the recording: a pair of cartoon characters stare at a giant discolored shrimp lying in a white, plastic tub with a tarot card off in the corner. Like the cover, the music is surreal and unsettling. And no matter how hard you look, you will never figure out how or why the shrimp is in that tub. — Ivana Ng

Natsuki Tamura | Elliot Sharp | Takayuki Kato | Satoko Fujii | In the Tank | libra records

Top 10 for 2005…An indefinable droning mishmash of sounds that feels like a young universe struggling to swirl itself into a semblance of order. ― Dan McClenaghan, All About Jazz

Think AMM meets blues guitar meets 1970s Miles Davis and you get some idea of the disc’s flavor: a slow-moving panorama for the ears, where sounds are systematically added, repeated, refined, and replaced in turn. ― Nate Dorward, Cadence

…The range of effects and speed of transition are breathtaking: between the first haunted scratches, and the final withered exhalations this triumphant electro-acoustic adventure never settles in any idiom for more than a moment, and never becomes boring… Astonishingly, this is the first meeting between downtown New York icon, [Elliott] Sharp, and these three mainstays of the Japanese free scene. Let’s hope it’s not the last. ― Daniel Spicer, Jazzwise

Really one 68-minute improv, the CD is divided into four tracks that should be listened to as a whole. Mixing the trumpeter’s bravura expressiveness and the techniques of the two guitarists who can replicate bass and percussion timbres, this is no laid-back jam session. It does have a particular shape however, with introductory passages and an elongated coda, both linked with the individualist playing of Tamura. Instructively, with all the dissonant, near-ghostly tones exhibited, In the Tank also implies traditional Japanese textures… at several junctures… this impressive, ever-shifting performance suggests a repeat should soon be in order. ― Ken Waxman, Jazz Weekly

Guitarists Takayuki Kato and Elliot Sharp are front and centre in this beautifully recorded four-track free improv session. Kato’s cornucopia of altered and looped sounds give his cohorts a sonic landscape in which to let loose. Pianist/composer Fujii… is a wellspring of rhythmic motifs that act as a catalyst, by turns prodding, pulling, and pummeling. Trumpeter Tamura… splurts, splats, arcs and angles, deftly weaving his bell-like clear tome into the tapestry pf electronic sounds… In the Tank is a recorded document that bears up under repeated listenings.  ― Glen Hall, Exclaim Magazine

… the colors of Tamura’s soundscape are more saturating than overpowering, which makes the occasional veering into pensive melody all the more effective. Still, this is challenging music. ― Point of Departure (online music journal)

… [a] challenging exploration of dissonance, microtonality and space. ― John Stevenson, ejazznews

In a drifting and amorphous way, the sound on In the Tank feels as elemental as a delta blues… But much like some of Miles Davis’ output in the late seventies the question of exactly which instrument is making what sound hovers over the proceedings… through the interludes of rock structures, blues shadings, jazz moments, and classical electro sound washes, a feeling of underlying structure and detached watching-the-events-from-above serenity remains. It’s best to suspend expectations here – that can be said for just about everything Tamura is involved in… ― Dan McClenaghan, All About Jazz

Natsuki Tamura | Elliot Sharp | Takayuki Kato | Satoko Fujii | In the Tank | libra records

 

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