The restlessly innovative husband and wife team of trumpeter Natsuki Tamura and pianist Satoko Fujii have produced some of the most intriguing and invigorating music to come out of Japan. Although rooted in the jazz idiom, their explorations are on universal themes, drawing upon a variety of inspirations. Their work is primarily improvised, but not in the sense of a blowing session and more within the permissive construct of melodic and unconventional compositions.
More often than not, it is Fujii who pens the pieces on their albums, but on Mukumeaning "purity" it is Tamura who assumes the role of the tunesmith. As the title of this duo recording suggests, the stripped-down sound of two instruments is clean and free of rhythmic flourishes.
The title track opens with crepuscular piano lines blended carefully with silent pauses. The distinctly Japanese melody is played in unison. Tamura peppers the Asian harmonies with Latin sounds. His gentle, breathy horn flutters between carefully placed bursts of Fujii's note clusters. This type of east and west musical amalgamation is one of the album's leitmotifs. "Dune and Star" opens with Tamura's melancholic and longing tones backed by occasional bursts of piano notes. Fujii's atmospheric vamp has strong eastern sensibilities as it plays behind Tamura's bluesy and complex lilting improvisation.
Although a strong lyricism runs through the album, it is not without its share of angular and mordant freedom. "In Barcelona, In June" is a romantic piano sonata enhanced with mellifluous, muted trumpet, which evolves into a fiery, unfettered and edgy extemporized duet.
"Clone" is an avant-garde exploration of the piano's range, with Fujii creating dark soundscapes filled by Tamura's warm yet piercing fills. The seemingly dissonant exchange between the two endows the tune with certain theatricality.
Why do I love jazz? Well, depending on what you mean by jazz, I can send an answer in any number of directions. Briefly, I was exposed to this crazy music as a little boy, my dad good friends with the local music store, where he bought sheet music to play from his baby grand
Why do I love jazz? Well, depending on what you mean by jazz, I can send an answer in any number of directions. Briefly, I was exposed to this crazy music as a little boy, my dad good friends with the local music store, where he bought sheet music to play from his baby grand. Their massive record collection, my parents taking me to concerts and clubs (only one of five kids to do so), the Magnavox furniture stereo/radio ... it all added up. It was complex, emotional music. And it had rhythm! I drummed and followed the music through the '60s even as I enjoyed the new musics of my generation.
Along with side-trips to other musicians and music, it's been one hell of a pony ride ever since.