The fifth album by Gato Libre, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura's acoustic quartet, is the first since the sudden death of bassist Norikatsu Koreyasu in 2011. Having thought long and hard about whether to continue, Tamura recruited trombonist Yasuko Kaneko as a replacement. While the European folk music inspiration of previous outings like Shiro (Libra Records, 2009) and Forever (Libra Records, 2012) remains intact, the change has engendered more the feel of a chamber outfit, albeit one at times crossed with a brass band. There can be few other units which combine such an unlikely array of instruments in pursuit of such a wide ranging but focused goal.
Tamura's love of putting strange noises to musical ends manifests itself in squeals, squeaks, exhalations and mutters, mixed and morphed from Spanish-tinged fanfares and tumbling declamatory runs. Newcomer Kaneko brings a clean-toned mellow approach which both blends with the leader's lyricism but also offers a grounding contrast to his more adventurous flights. Satoko Fujii, on accordion rather than her customary piano in this ensemble, adds a shimmering orchestral dimension, while on guitar Kazuhiko Tsumura incisively picks gentle strums and rippling arpeggios which impart forward motion to the arrangements, although he becomes an increasingly dominant presence as the program progresses.
Tamura frequently deploys guitar and accordion to set out the chief structural elements within the open sound he seeks. Only the spare and wistful "Rainy Day" starts with other than an unaccompanied statement, and often just one or two voices hold sway at a time, sometimes choreographed in interlocking parts or emphatic riffs, but on other occasions joshing in looser configurations. On "Mouse" Tamura juxtaposes a series of solo proclamations to create a nervy whole, illuminated by a driving trumpet motif midway through and a scrabbling guitar episode reminiscent of Derek Bailey. Nonetheless, an attractive minor key melodicism pervades the set with extended techniques artfully integrated, exemplified by the trumpeter in his introduction to the intricate "Nanook," in an enjoyable and compelling realization of a singular vision.
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