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Natsuki Tamura / Satoko Fujii: Chun

Troy Collins By

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Chun is one of seven new albums released in 2008 by tireless Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii in celebration of her fiftieth birthday. Issued concurrently with Sanrei (BKM), by her Orchestra Nagoya, and Summer Suite (Libra), by her Orchestra New York, Chun is the fourth duet session Fujii has recorded with her husband, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura.

Fujii and Tamura have honed their empathetic rapport in a variety of settings over the past decade, from the massed ensembles of the aforementioned Orchestras to the spare confines of this acoustic duo. Despite the double billing, all of the tunes are penned by Fujii, whose expansive writing offers a rich array of dynamic contrasts. The most intricate endeavors weave turbulent unison lines through labyrinthine themes; the more ethereal fare relies on the duo's sensitive interpretive abilities to provide them with formal constraints.

Fujii and Tamura's vigorous interplay and bracing virtuosity electrifies the rousing opener, "Tokyo Rush Hour," as they tackle the tune's coiled theme with neoclassical flair, deconstructing the core melody with fervid enthusiasm. The title track and "Spiral Staircase" follow suit, with brisk tempos and knotty cadences that border on the baroque. Thorny lines reveal a bounty of creative possibilities as Fujii's incisive arpeggios and Tamura's blustery runs craft harsh angles into dramatic contours. "Infrared" is the culmination of this approach, Tamura's trilled fanfares inspire Fujii's coruscating salvos to unfettered abandon.

"Nudibranch," "Stone Flowers" and "Curt Response" resound with lyrical restraint and conversational empathy, punctuated by interludes of pungent expressionism. Tamura's melancholy whispers compliment Fujii's muted chords as she plies harrowing harmonic variations on "Nudibranch" and he elicits pillowy glisses on "Stone Flowers." "Ultraviolet" abandons traditional structure altogether, unveiling a delicate tone poem of hushed insectoid textures.

The album's exotic, episodic finale, the 21 minute "Triangle" opens with scintillating gamelan-like tones and metallic textures, generated by Fujii's hands-on manipulation of her piano strings. Tamura's ghostly cries exacerbate the haunting atmosphere, building to plangent refrains which Fujii works into sinuous variations before concluding the tune with a rousing bout of pneumatic free improvisation.

Another brilliant document in the growing discography of one of today's most important composers, Chun is a stellar document of two musicians whose sensitive interplay knows no bounds.

Track Listing: Tokyo Rush Hour; Nudibranch; Infrared; Chun; Stone Flowers; Curt Response; Ultraviolet; Spiral Staircase; Triangle.

Personnel: Natsuki Tamura: trumpet; Satoko Fujii: piano.

Title: Chun | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Libra Records

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