Natsuki Tamura: Koki Solo

Dan McClenaghan By

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Natsuki Tamura: Koki Solo
In 1983, pop vocalist Cyndi Lauper said, "Girls Just Want to Have Fun." She probably still sings it. Trumpeter Natsuki Tamura has always wanted to have fun, too, playing—in his early days—jazz standards in Japanese clubs where hostesses in negligees sat at stage-side tables drinking room temperature tea masquerading as whiskey at the expense of ardent customers. From there, Tamura's artistry evolved to making trumpet noises that sound like a love sick duck, or a flatulent hedgehog (and so much more) on pianist Satoko Fujii's big band outings; or playing a call and response with a freight train rumbling by outside a San Diego club during a 2008 performance by Fujii's Ma-Do band. All of this along with pure, beautiful melodies, muscular jazz/rock blowing and up-tempo post-bop fire, usually in Fujii's ensembles, sometimes with his own.

Satoko Fujii and Natsuki Tamura are married. They have a small recording studio in their apartment in Kobe, Japan, and the Covid-19 pandemic has left them with time on their hands. For Tamura and Fujii, this is a recipe for having fun.

Enter Koki Solo, an alone-in-the-studio Tamura outing, one in which he does not confine himself to his trumpet. But he does open the disc with an assertive trumpet solo on "Sekirei," before he goes off into a percussive kitchen implement mode on "Karugamo." A wok is the only cooking tool identified, but there are almost certainly more (cheese graters, pot lids, pans, oven racks?). The six clamorous minutes is filled with meditative ringings, taps, rattles, tinny clanks and clatters, with a bonus vocal serenade—in Japanese or vocalese? The answer is in the air.

"Kawau" brings Tamura's early European-flavored Gato Libre discs to mind, on a solemn solo trumpet meditation that sounds like twilight in Madrid. "Bora" finds Tamura in the piano chair—a position to which he says he brings no technique; which isn't quite true. He has some, but it is a relative thing; he does, after all, live with a virtuoso pianist, and with his "piano as a second instrument approach" it is hard to compete with a Satoko Fujii. His way with the keyboard is exploratory and playful, uncomplicated, somewhat in the mode of bassist Charles Mingus' Mingus Plays Piano (Verve, 1964).

"Sagi" brings back Tamura's trumpet, sounding like a storm brewing up outside the studio—wind moaning in the rafters, hissing through windows that could use a good resealing.

Tamura closes this mishmash—this child-like hour of appealing musical playtime—on the piano again, percussive and frenzied, with his vocalizations that sound like a distraught apparition from the underworld, where maybe the brimstone is flaring, or a deranged monk. Or a guy with music in the marrow of his bones, who doesn't take things too seriously, and just wants to have some fun.

Track Listing

Sekirei; Karugamo; Kawau; Bora; Sagi; Kamome; Chidori; Isoshigi.


Natsuki Tamura: trumpet.

Additional Instrumentation

Natsuki Tamura: trumpet, piano, wok, vocals.

Album information

Title: Koki Solo | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: Libra Records

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