Satoko Fujii & Natsuki Tamura Duo

Jim Santella By

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Satoko Fujii & Natsuki Tamura
Café Metropol
Los Angeles, California
September 8, 2007

Using every inch of her piano's keyboard and every nuance of his trumpet's capabilities, Satoko Fujii and Natsuki Tamura appeared at Café Metropol in Los Angeles to begin an extended tour in the name of avant- garde jazz. As prolific composers and performers, the duo carries a wide range of ideas with them wherever they go. Reflecting the history of LA's Arts District through their music, Fujii and Tamura searched for and found colorful ideas throughout the evening.

Their music, based on well thought-out compositions, carried an air of free jazz interplay at every turn. The first set began with a soulful melody that recalled Ellington and Gershwin through its mood as well as its motion. Fujii likes to employ a walking bass line at the piano from time to time, while Tamura enjoys weaving a melody that shifts from one shade to another. Their music ebbs and flows with ever-changing flavors that keep the audience enthralled throughout the performance.

The duo shared their creative ideas through two extended sets for a rapt audience in the quaint atmosphere of Café Metropol, a refreshing oasis located in the heart of Los Angeles' Downtown Arts District. Beginning and ending most pieces with a unison section, the two artists remained close and tightly-knit. As spouses and as long- time friends and musical partners, they've developed a genuine kinship that extends into their performance as natural as breathing. Together, they deliver finely-honed statements that excite the senses, while their soloing goes far beyond.

At times, Fujii stood up at the piano and brought out its expressive designs by manipulating the wires inside. She used a slender mallet with a bead tip to make music from the inside out. Other techniques brought about a wide array of fascinating sounds that appeared to send electricity through the air. But her performance was all acoustic. Natural and beautiful, her piano interpretations formed a majestic foundation.

Tamura's improvised solos also included unexpected techniques. When applying the wah-wah mute to his horn, he created a vocal-like tale of dreamy consolation. Ellington and Armstrong were never far from reach. However, he brought in many surprises this evening, including extended techniques that produced multiple tones on the trumpet. Splitting the tone in such a way as to evoke guttural singing, Tamura provided a refreshing form of lyricism that allied itself with everyday speech. His solos amounted to conversations between artist and audience.


Steve Rudolph


CD/LP/Track Review
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