Birthday celebrations have found their way into jazz recordings since the Louis Armstrong era. Illinois Jacquet, Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson, and Jaco Pastorius have directly baked the cake into album titles while other artists have taken an indirect approach to celebrating. Satoko Fujii broke the mold in 2019 with a new release each month in commemoration of her sixtieth birthday. Now her partner and frequent collaborator, Natsuki Tamura takes a page from Fujii's book with his solo recording Koki Solo. The release is in celebration of Tamura's seventieth birthday.
A composer and trumpeter by trade, Tamura expands his tool kit to include piano, vocals, and a primarily unidentified arsenal of gadgets with the purpose of making noise. He wastes no time in demonstrating the range and extended technique on the opening piece, "Sekirei." With beautiful melodies, soaring buildups, and rasping snarls, Tamura gives us a dramatic introduction. "Karugamo" is a ritualistic mélange of proxied bells, gongs, and chanting which may seem to invoke ancient spirits but is simply an experiment with pots, pans, and utensils. Here, as on the later track "Kamome," Tamura shows that his extended vocal techniques are as wide-ranging as his trumpet. Fortunately, these eccentric tracks are balanced with the stunning solo trumpet works "Kawau" and "Chidori."
As a pianist, Tamura is able but does not pose a threat to Satoko Fujii (who produced Koki Solo). Whatever his shortcomings at the keyboard, they are obscured by his gargling, screeching vocal on the closing track, "Isoshigi." To be clear, Tamura's notes confirm that this is all meant to be quirky fun in an age of uncertainty. It is more than that, of course, with some heartfelt and memorable trumpet work. Koki Solo may not be for everyone, but Natsuki Tamura has never made music for everyone.