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Natsuki Tamura / Satoko Fujii: Muku

Dan McClenaghan By

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Trumpeter Natsuki Tamura and pianist Satoko Fujii—partners in marriage and music—have an extensive discography together, spanning a broad array of ensemble configurations, from Fujii's calamitous big bands to Tamura's European folk song-flavored Gato Libre discs, and from Fujii's propulsive, window-rattling art rock quartets to Tamura's blistering electric quartet of Hada Hada (Libra Records, 2003). But it is in their simple duo of piano and trumpet, where they have recently created some of their most compelling music.

Muko is the pair's fifth duo outing, following 2008's outstanding Chun (Libra Records). Listening to the two recordings back-to-back reveals very different approaches and moods. Chun reflected Fujii's project; she wrote all the tunes, and the sound was intricate and often tempestuous, riding the pianist's mix of breathtaking beauty with sudden tumults; sedate interludes juxtaposed with piano notes bursting like shards from a shattering glass.

Muko, on the other hand, is Tamura's record. His approach here is quieter, more song-like and meditative, and likely to startle. The tunes, all Tamura's, are culled from his previous trumpet/guitar/accordion/bass Gato Libre outings. The tunes, solemn and melodically simple and accessible, are perfect vehicles for the duo format. Tamura's tone is pure beauty, as he eschews, for the most part, his un-trumpet-like squawks, belches, flutters and hissing whispers featured on so many of Fujii's and his more adventurous outings. Fujii is also in a more straightforward frame of mind; with spare accompaniment to Tamura's solemn interludes, there are moments of beautiful melancholy and deeply focused introspection.

"Dune and Star" opens the disc with a plaintive trumpet cry, a lonely fanfare of a sound. Fujii adds brief sparkles, then a reserved feeling of longing with darker notes. "In Barcelona, in June" starts with Tamura sputtering and wailing in front of Fujii's stately playing, the tune gathering momentum in the direction of a joyful dance. The title tune blossoms patiently, sounding like a rumination over life's regrets, in an oddly gorgeous fashion.

The music of Tamura and Fujii moves in many directions. With Muku, the duo has created one of its loveliest and most engaging recordings to date.

Track Listing: Dune and Star; In Barcelona, In June; Muku; Galvanic; Patrol; In Paris, In February; Clone.

Personnel: Natsuki Tamura: trumpet; Satoko Fujii: piano.

Title: Muku | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Libra Records

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CD/LP/Track Review
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