Satoko Fujii | Natsuki Tamura | In Krakow, In November | Not Two Records

Not Two, 2006 | MW 774-2 | CD

Satoko Fujii – piano | Natsuki Tamura – trumpet

Recorded by Aleksander Wilk at Radio Krakow, Studio S-5, Poland, November 8, 2005. Mastered by Scott Hull at Scott Hull Mastering, on June 5, 2006. Cover photo, cover design by Andrzej Wojnowski. Inside photo by Krzysztof Penarski.

Special Thanks to: Kazunori Sugiyama, Satoru Shimohata, Masako Shimohata, Ann Braithwaite, Janinka Diverio, Chris Albury, Eyal Hareuveni

Tracklist: 1. Strange Village (Tamura) [09:01] 2. A North Wind (Tamura) [03:45] 3. Morning Mist (Tamura) [09:21] 4. Ninepin (Fujii) [07:26] 5. A Holothurian (Fujii) [02:44] 6. In Krakow, In November (Tamura) [09:07] 7. Explorer (Tamura) [04:54] 8. Inori (Fujii) [06:07]

Satoko Fuji | Photo by Krzysztof Penarski

Recorded in Poland in November 2005

it is perhaps most notable for Tamura’s dominance. While the trumpeter is often in the shadows of his pianist wife, here five of the eight pieces are his, three of those — including the title track — also recorded by his excellent group Gato Libre. Fujii and Tamura play beautifully together and the Krakow studio session is a lovely, somber affair. They open with the title track from Gato Libre’s first album, 2005’s Strange Village. It’s rare for the pair to revisit compositions — they seem to have too much forward momentum for that — but here it’s great to hear new arrangements of familiar tunes. With the Gato Libre project, Tamura has from his quirky, sometimes noisy work of just a few years ago and has been writing unabashedly beautiful, Spanish-inflected melodies for his new group. Here, without guitar or rhythm section, Fujii’s romantic playing sets them at a different angle. Without space between the tracks, the album comes off as a suite and 22 minutes in, when Fujii’s first piece begins, it’s immediately apparent how different they still are. If Tamura has dropped some of the humor and abstraction of his earlier work, Fujii is still the jazzier of the two. With Ninepin’s the tempo picks up, the melodies come out of hiding and Tamura meets her with bright, boppy playing. — Kurt Gottschalk, All About Jazz)

Natsuki Tamura | Photo by Krzysztof Penarski

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4 thoughts on “Satoko Fujii | Natsuki Tamura | In Krakow, In November | Not Two Records

  1. The cover is dark blue with a picture of a city (presumably Krakow) at dusk with a cloudy sky. Lights that have come on are glowing from overexposing the shot. The mood is thus set for the duo of pianist Satoko Fujii and her husband, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura to present re-workings of pieces recorded in different arrangements from years past. The album has a stark, wide-open sound that creates a serious, introspective mood which matches the one created by the cover.

    This being their first duo recording in five years, these new arrangements bring in their current interest in classical music and European folk music. For those readers not familiar with Fujii’s or Tamura’s music, In Krakow In November could be the perfect introduction, especially when the avant-garde label might frighten. Many pieces have a distinctly classical feel and clear harmony and structure, along with others that are quite free.

    The opening track, “Strange Village,” originally recorded by Tamura’s Gato Libre quartet, is deceptively simple and it sounds very much like a trumpet recital piece at first. However, it is subtly subverted in a number of humorous ways as it progresses. Balancing this is the title tune, which opens with solo trumpet playing the simple melody, but is soon joined by sounds of the piano being played from the inside. Fujii answers with a very romantic piano solo and the slowly builds in emotion. “Morning Mist” could easily be heard as having Claude Debussy’s “La Cathédrale Engloutie” (The Sunken Cathedral) as its inspiration.

    The freer pieces include “A North Wind,” which consists of trumpet sounds (rather than notes) accompanied by piano sounds until the piano breaks out to respond to the trumpet’s screams. “A Holothurian” begins with ethereal piano chords supporting a trumpet line consisting of strangled notes, and then it too has the piano break out with rolling chords behind very eerie trumpet sounds.

    In between these extremes lies “Ninepin,” from Fujii’s Live In Japan 2004 (Polystar, 2005), which has a clear but twisting line and a forceful direct rhythm which moves things forward, and “Explorer,” with its pixyish humor and interplay.

    The album closes with “Inori,” which features long, legato lines from Tamura with a romantic piano accompaniment from Fujii. This overtly beautiful performance is a fitting close to what can be called a recital from these two wonderful and very sensitive musicians.

  2. Pianist Satoko Fujii and trumpeter Natsuki Tamura make a fine team. Their musical collaborations are many, involving Fujii’s big band as well as several other combines including duo outings. They are back together for the first time in five years exploring tunes that were earlier recorded by their quartet projects.

    The pared down approach does not sap the vitality of the compositions. Fujii and Tamura bring a fresh perspective to each, divined by their ability to move past the obvious and pick up the unusual, which makes the CD a worthwhile listening experience.

    The music, recorded in the studio of Radio Krakow in Poland, is diverse and serves to profile the many ways in which the two can enrich a tune. The opening tune, “Strange Village, finds Tamura articulating the melody at a deliberate pace with Fujii adding the end note to his lines. Fujii extrapolates that with a sparse undercurrent of runs countered by a thunderous chord. Tamura shades the composition with a change of pace, adding deep hues and gentle swishes.

    Fujii is in a lighter mood as she pirouettes into “Ninepin. There is an air of classicism that changes into a free experience as Tamura cuts the melodic line and blows some quick shards that he gathers into cohesive lines. Both sides go to make up an expressive whole. Fujii gets into the free spirit, her playing emphatic and filled with a resonance that gets its soul from her impressive spin of ideas.

    “Inori is filled with the graceful tones as Tamura plays the melody, instilling it with a deep passion. Fujii, introspective at first, ups the momentum and then calms the tide with delicacy.

    Tamura and Fujii bring in another inventive testament.

  3. The husband and wife team of Natsuki Tamura & Satoko Fujii continues to make giant strides in bringing avant garde jazz to a wider audience. Their creative adventures recall the excitement wrought by AACM members such as Lester Bowie and Muhal Richard Abrams. Extending their reach around the world, the creative couple forcefully demonstrates what can happen when you let your musical ideas run free.

    Their compositions run melodic throughout this live session, allowing impressions to come from both gentle and intense interplay. Fujii and Tamura remain as cohesive as two peas in a pod, supporting each other convincingly without letting up. After all, when you’re working alone together as they are on this release, you need to partner up continually, because there’s no one else around to help.

    Several of the selections on this 2005 duo session ring familiar from their earlier albums. In that respect, the artists have brought in some of their best compositions. With their free, creative spirits on fire, however, we get no reruns. Every interpretation comes as a brand new entity, at once fully explosive and rich with lyricism. At times, Fujii’s percussive piano reaches down low and comes up with thundering chords that shout and cry. Similarly, Tamura’s mournful trumpet can fly high or low in search of his next surprise. Oftentimes, they both issue plaintive moans that sing like angels on high.

    In Kraków, in November and “Strange Village cast impressions of the Eastern European tradition with their slow and deliberate drive. “Ninepin and “Explorer both move lighter with impressions that sparkle like the changing of the seasons. “Morning Mist and “A North Wind take on overt impressions, while “Holothurian issues a slow, mournful climb.

    The album closes with “Inori, which moves sensually with deep reflection. As with most art of great quality, the creative music of Fujii and Tamura carries a wide range of impressions. It’s up to the listener to capture the essence with open ears. This one can be enjoyed by all.

  4. Listening to In Krakow In November might make you think that a European influence has tamed the avant approach of pianist Satoko Fujii and trumpeter Natsuki Tamura. This set, along with two recent releases by Tamura’s Gato Libre group—featuring Fujii on accordion—are tinted by their explorations of European folk and classical forms. They also deliver relatively sedate sounds full of lyrical beauty and introspection, in high contrast with, say, the Satoko Fujii Quartet’s seismic Vulcan (Libra, 2001) or Tamura’s electro storm, Hada Hada (Libra, 2003).

    But this is less a taming than a revisitation of an intimacy the artists have explored previously, and individually, on records like Fujii’s Sketches (NatSat, 2004) and Tamura’s Ko Ko Ko Ke (NatSat, 2004).

    In Krakow In November is a duo outing with just piano and trumpet, unadorned. Melody takes center stage, showcasing both Tamura’s and Fujii’s strengths—which can be overshadowed in their larger ensemble or electric work—in that aspect of sound. “Explorer,” originally recorded by Tamura’s quartet on Hada Hada, loses its radioactive intensity in this acoustic duo setting, becoming playful and humorous; while “Strange Village,” the title tune of the first Gato Libre CD, glows with a simpled pared-down beauty.

    All of these tracks have been recorded before by various other ensembles by Fujii and Tamura. With just the two instruments on this disc, we hear more of the pure essense of the compositions, revealing an engaging playfulness and often serene introspection, mixed with some of the characteristic Fujii/Tamura intensity (“North Wind”).

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