Pianist Satoko Fujii and her husband, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, rarely lend their services as side players; in recent years they have contributed to recordings by Japanese free jazz pioneer Itaru Oki and the Rova saxophone quartet. But in the last two years Fujii and Tamura committed themselves to a new quartet led by American drummer and composer Jimmy Weinstein, called Natural Coincidence. This fourth member in this quartet is the Japanese bassist Masa Kamaguchi, who has collaborated with Weinstein since 1991.
Weinstein, a native Chicagoan and a former student of drummers Alan Dawson and Max Roach, splits now his time between New York and Liguria, Italy, where he teaches in his Traveling School. Natural Coincidence is a truly cosmopolitan initiative. Weinstein met Fujii and Tamura in Japan in 1997 and was inspired by their creativity and dynamics. Since then he has dreamed about a joint project, and their debut disc, This Ocean, was recorded in New York last year for Weinstein's label, Ad Hoc. This quartet has toured Europe regularly in the last two years.
The music reflects Weinstein's deep understanding of the history of the great jazz drummers, but also his compositional skills and his inquisitive interplay with Fujii, Tamura and Kamaguchi. All the members of the quartet are constantly willing to take chances.
The opening track, "Wind and Tide," is a collective improvisation that presents the quartet in its most abstract mode, but the tone changes completely with the short, muscular "Squalls," featuring a beautiful angular trumpet solo by Tamura, which emphasizes the tight interplay of the quartet. "East of Cadiz" sounds like the group is paying tribute to the classic Blue Note compositions of Andrew Hill, relying on the bop legacy but rewriting it at the same time. Alternating meters and harmonics, this piece again finds Tamura taking an imaginative solo, assisted with effects that enhance his vocabulary.
"Sea Like Glass" is a solo piece by Fujii that begin almost like a Japanese folk song. Fujii plays on the strings of the piano, transforming it into a beautiful introspective piece that acts as an introduction to the captivating minimalism of "Great, As This Ocean."
"Rat," with its powerhouse drumming and heavy piano clusters, sounds like it might fit the repertoire of Satoko Fujii Quartet, which features drummer Tatsuya Yoshida. "Beaufort's Scale" and "Polar Affectations" are collective improvisations that move between breezy, disjointed textures into soaring and tight interplay. The energetic and playful "Go Getter," which concludes this gem, again presents Weinstein as a sharp composer and an assured leader.
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Personnel: Satoko Fujii: piano; Natsuki Tamura: trumpet; Masa Kamaguchi: bass; Jimmy Weinstein: drums.