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Kaze: Rafaele

Dave Wayne By

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Trumpeter Natsuki Tamura and pianist Satoko Fujii are as furiously creative as they are prolific. These days, they release new music in batches of three or four CDs, each with different personnel, though often with some compositional overlap—completely forgivable, since the same material sounds completely different (often rewardingly so) in the hands of a different ensemble. It is rare, however, that they feature others' compositions—a fact Fujii herself remarks upon in Rafaele's brief liner notes. Kaze, one of Fujii and Tamura's latest ventures, is a two-trumpet, piano and drums quartet. The drummer is Peter Orins, a French musician with whom Fujii and Tamura shared a bill a decade ago. Like Tamura, trumpeter Christian Pruvost is as interested in extended techniques as he is, as Fujii points out, in "playing the trumpet like a trumpet." There are some incredible textures and unprecedented sounds on Rafaele. There is also some remarkable music.

Open structures predominate, giving the soloists plenty of free rein.Tamura's only piece, "Noise Chopin," opens with the two trumpeters performing a noisy, guttural, buzzing duet that's interrupted by Orins' martial drumming. The ensuing three-way conversation is delightful, humorous almost, as Pruvost sounds like an old record being played backwards, while Tamura mutters and squeaks in the background. Fujii finally enters eight minutes in, her big, ringing chords imparting grandiose melancholy to the proceedings.

More bizarre and unprecedented sounds begin Orins' "Anagramme," which veers off on a different tangent courtesy of Fujii's bass line and spooky dark harmonies. These, in turn, support the piece's very lengthy melodic line. The music turns darker and more turbulent as the trumpets attenuate the melody, adding improvisational asides that wander further away from the written material as the intensity builds.

Fujii's "The Thaw," a pretty piece with a melody that sounds as if it could be derived from an ancient Japanese folk tune, opens with Orins' drum solo. He's an interesting player, with an approach inspired by the direction that Paul Motian has been taking over the past two decades. Orins' other two tunes, the somber "Marie-T" and the furiously chaotic "Polly," provide ample solo space for Fujii and both trumpeters, while maintaining distinct melodic and harmonic identities. The first few minutes of Fujii's "Blast" feature some of the set's most abstract and furious improvising before the pianist and drummer introduce the tune's melodic and harmonic content, an utterly rocking line that provides fodder for even more raucous improvisation and another wild solo from Orins.

With over 50 recordings to their credit, the Satoko Fujii and Natsuki Tamura tandem has made clear that they possess two of the most fecund minds in the avant-jazz world. Carefully curated collaborations with similarly gifted artists such as Orins and Pruvost only serve to further strengthen and vary their collective musical vision. Rafaele features cutting edge trumpet music, and ecstatic, unbridled improvisational energy.

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