The cover is dark blue with a picture of a city (presumably Krakow) at dusk with a cloudy sky. Lights that have come on are glowing from overexposing the shot. The mood is thus set for the duo of pianist Satoko Fujii and her husband, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura to present re-workings of pieces recorded in different arrangements from years past. The album has a stark, wide-open sound that creates a serious, introspective mood which matches the one created by the cover.
This being their first duo recording in five years, these new arrangements bring in their current interest in classical music and European folk music. For those readers not familiar with Fujii's or Tamura's music, In Krakow In November could be the perfect introduction, especially when the avant-garde label might frighten. Many pieces have a distinctly classical feel and clear harmony and structure, along with others that are quite free.
The opening track, "Strange Village," originally recorded by Tamura's Gato Libre quartet, is deceptively simple and it sounds very much like a trumpet recital piece at first. However, it is subtly subverted in a number of humorous ways as it progresses. Balancing this is the title tune, which opens with solo trumpet playing the simple melody, but is soon joined by sounds of the piano being played from the inside. Fujii answers with a very romantic piano solo and the slowly builds in emotion. "Morning Mist" could easily be heard as having Claude Debussy's "La Cathédrale Engloutie" (The Sunken Cathedral) as its inspiration.
The freer pieces include "A North Wind," which consists of trumpet sounds (rather than notes) accompanied by piano sounds until the piano breaks out to respond to the trumpet's screams. "A Holothurian" begins with ethereal piano chords supporting a trumpet line consisting of strangled notes, and then it too has the piano break out with rolling chords behind very eerie trumpet sounds.
In between these extremes lies "Ninepin," from Fujii's Live In Japan 2004 (Polystar, 2005), which has a clear but twisting line and a forceful direct rhythm which moves things forward, and "Explorer," with its pixyish humor and interplay.
The album closes with "Inori," which features long, legato lines from Tamura with a romantic piano accompaniment from Fujii. This overtly beautiful performance is a fitting close to what can be called a recital from these two wonderful and very sensitive musicians.
Strange Village; A North Wind; Morning Mist; Ninepin; A Holothurian; In Krakow, In November; Explorer; Inori
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