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Gato Libre: DuDu

Dan McClenaghan By

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There are a lot of high energy, wild and out there sounds screaming around in Natuski Tamura's discography—the explosively electric Hada Hada (Libra Records, 2002), the sizzling Exit (Libra Records, 2004), and any number of unfettered collaborations with his wife, pianist Satoko Fujii. But his Gato Libre discs are one of the Japanese trumpeter's more laid-back methods of expression. An acoustic quartet that explores European folk themes in a tranquil and occasionally off-center way, the five previous sets by the group are some of Tamura's most approachable and prettiest music.

Bassist Norikatsu Koreyasu—an an integral part of Gato Libre's sound—passed away unexpectedly in 2011, and the decision to be made was: disband or carry on with a different instrumentalist in Koreyasu's place. The bassist also anchored Satoko Fujii's Ma-Do ensemble, and the choice there was to disband. But Tamura wanted to try out new instrumentalists to determine if survival was a possibility for Gato Libre.

As it turns out, the cat survived, with the addition of Japanese trombonist it Yasuko Kaneko, who joins trumpeter Tamura and Fujii—on accordion rather than piano, as on all the Gato Libre discs—and guitarist Kazuhiko Tsumura for the group's sixth offering, DuDu.

The change in sound and attitude of the free cat isn't a major one. The trombone takes the bass part at times, and also offers up some fluid solos. The guitar slips in evoking visions of Spain, and the accordion swells up behind Tamura's straight forward trumpet tone. It sounds like a busker crew on a street corner in Paris or Barcelona or, at times, in the Twilight Zone. Tamura is not an instrumentalist to be defined by traditional sounds. He slips—not often and not distractingly—from a beautiful open horn tone into flutters or squeals, or the hiss and sputter that brings to mind air escaping with a grainy squeal from the untied and stretched wide neck of a rubber balloon, followed by a string of pensive, spare, lovely single notes on the guitar with Fujii's accordion sighing sweetly, almost subliminally, in the background.

That Natsuki Tamura's Gato Libre. The cat lives on.

Track Listing: DuDu; Gato; Nanook; Rainy Day; Scramble; Mouse; Cirencester; B&B.

Personnel: Natsuki Tamura: trumpet; Yasuko Kaneko: trombone; Kazuhiko Tsumura: guitar; Satoko Fujii: accordion.

Title: DuDu | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Libra Records

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