Natsuki Tamura / Satoko Fujii: Keshin

Dan McClenaghan By

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Natsuki Tamura / Satoko Fujii: Keshin
The Covid-19 virus tightened its grip on the world in 2020, bringing the old "one door closes, another one opens" trope to mind. The door into touring, to presenting music in live venues, slammed shut. But the extra time afforded by the lack of live music opportunities let the recording studio doors swing wide open—especially in a time when the technology has made home studios a viable and relatively affordable option.

Pianist Satoko Fujii's studio is located in her apartment in Kobe, Japan, in a room just big enough for her instrument. Her superb solo album Hazuki (Libra records, 2021) happened there, while her husband, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, cooked in the adjacent kitchen—a task that inspired him, perhaps, to record his Nabe Kama (Libra Records, 2021), a solo percussion set using kitchen utensils.

The studio's tight confines limit, though, the size of the ensemble—solo Fujii with just her piano; solo Tamura with his culinary tool menagerie. It is hard to image Fujii bringing in one of her big bands—the Satoko Fujii Orchestra Kobe perhaps, with the bassist backed into a corner, the reed players beneath the piano, the trumpeters sitting cross-legged in a circle atop the piano, the trombonist and tuba guy flanking Fujii on the bench, the drummer in the doorway, de-legitimizing the soundproofing of the place.

But the duo thing is doable—Tamura with his trumpet, Fujii at the piano, the hot pots and kettles reassigned to the kitchen. So it was there, in the home studio, that the Tamura/Fujii teaming recorded its eighth duo outing together, Keshin.

The comfort level/read-each-other's-minds mode is as high as it can get. On the opener, the Fujii-penned "Busy Day" begins with her piano asking a succinct question, followed by Tamura's tart answer, followed by a bold unison interlude. The sound has the feel of a stop and start bumper car contest, with just two cars in the game. And sometimes those cars roll a smooth road, sometimes they careen, two cars weaving around each other like a roller derbyists, bumping and bouncing of each other; and—for those who have followed the Fujii/Tamura duo work—it is apparent that the sound has taken on a more solid structure. It is still freewheeling, to be sure, but it sounds more architecturally laid out, making less use of sonic chaos, and using it astutely and sparingly when the right time comes.

Fujii and Tamura trade compositional duties throughout—odd numbered tunes for Fujii, the even for Tamura. A blind listen probably wouldn't reveal the author to most listeners. It seems—in the studio or on the stage—that Fujii and Tamura think as one.

The album closes with "Sparrow Dance," a playful, free-flying romp, soaring then dropping out of the sky to skim the ground before rising again, in tandem to do a fluttering, lighter than air do-si-do, the way only Fujii and Tamura can do it.

And about a proposed Satoko Fujii Orchestra Kobe recording from the home studio? You never know; Fujii makes amazing things happen.

Track Listing

Busy Day; Donten; Dreamer; Three Scenes; Keshin; Drop; Sparrow Dance.


Natsuki Tamura: trumpet; Satoko Fujii: piano.

Album information

Title: Keshin | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: Libra Records

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