Natsuki Tamura explodes the conventions of the trumpet. The ironically titled Summer Tree is his fifth solo album though his partner, and here, producer, Satoko Fujii, lends a vocal contribution on one of four extended compositions. Tamura's previous pandemic project, Koki Solo (Libra Records, 2021) was lockdown escapism with an ear toward humor and an eye toward the more resonant utensils in his kitchen. Summer Tree is dark and complex but Tamura's most accessible solo album. Two fully improvised pieces are bookended by composed melodies, overlayed with improvised tracks.
The title track opens to a disturbing unnatural howl, analogous to Alfred Hitchcock's mass attack of crows in The Birds. Tamura's trumpet emerges from this horror soundtrack, morphing from alien to natural. But the foreign sounds are not the trumpeter's frequent humorous asides. There is a spiritualif startlingaspect to these ten minutes. Grinding, industrial sounds mix with subdued, percussive effects from household items, trumpet bleats, and swirls on "Summer Color." Tamura experiments at the low end of the piano adding an ominous air. His trumpet takes on a human-like voice, and it is not happy. "Summer Wind" features Fujii's vocal acrobatics, somewhere between catlike and demonic. Churning into Tamura's piano and trumpet, it is an indescribably eerie soundscape. The closing piece, "Summer Dream" begins with a drone, quickly joined by an unadulterated, muted trumpet for twelve spectral minutes.
It's difficult to say Summer Tree is a "different" type of recording for Tamura; everything he does breaks the constraints of conventionality. But where he often resists the fundamentals, this album interlocks experimentation and overdubs with exceptional playing imbued with a sense of deep isolation. Summer Tree is unquestionably the finest work Tamura has produced to date; shrewd, lyrical, and never more than a step away from the edge.