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Gato Libre: Nomad

Dan McClenaghan By

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Trumpeter Natsuki Tamura's trip into European folk sounds is one of the stranger, off-on-a-tangent jazz journeys around. His new Gato Libre group, with one previous CD, Strange Village (Muzak, 2005), to its credit, is an accoustic quartet with his wife and musical collaborator Satoko Fujii (accordion), Kazuhiko Tsumura (guitar) and Norikatsu Koreyasu (bass). Nomad carries on in the same vein as its predessor—dreamy and mysterious, gentle and straightforward, but with more assurance and a finer focus, featuring some of Tamura's most lyrical and beautiful trumpet playing since his spare and poetic Ko Ko Ko Ke (NatSat, 2004).

More than any other jazz artist I've encountered, Tamura is fearless about changing sonic gears. Hada Hada (Libra, 2003) sounded like a 10,000 watt plutonium-soaked typhoon (open your CD storage cabinet quickly; the jewel case glows hot in the dark); Exit (NatSat, 2004) was also a wired-up affair, a controlled electron sizzle of sound; Ko Ko Ko Ke had a soft pastoral beauty, full of "chants and incantations"; and In The Tank (Libra, 2005) was a shapeless and oddly alluring neo-chamber/blues/ambient live set that—like almost everything Tamura does—thumbed its nose at categorization.

With Nomad though, you can make a category for the sound: Old Europe, stretched.

"Spain, of course." That was the answer to my question concerning where she (a great friend, and a citizen of Europe not too many years ago) thought the musicians performing "In Madrid, In August" were from. A good guess, but with names like Tamura, Fujii, Tsumura and Koreyasu, she was half a globe off the mark.

The song titles suggest a "nomadic" wandering though a a couple of handfuls of European cities, including Krakow, Glasgow, Paris, Barcelona and Madrid. But the group doesn't adhere to strict tradition. You'll hear flamenco mixed in with Old World waltz, stirred into reggae with a touch of blues or a reel from a Scottish pub, as Satoko Fujii pushes the occasional harmonic envelope on accordion.

It's impossible to say where Natsuki Tamura will wander next, but it'll be well worth following this musical nomad, wherever that might be.

Track Listing: In Krakow, In Novermber; In Glasgow, In May; In Paris, In February; In Barcelona, In June; In Madrid, In August; In Berlin, In September; In Budapest, In April; In Lausanne, In January; In Gent, In December; In Venice, In October.

Personnel: Natsuki Tamura: trumpet; Kazuhiko Tsumura: guitar; Satoko Fujii: accordion; Norikatsu Koreyasu: bass.

Title: Nomad | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: No Man's Land Records

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