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Kaze: Tornado

Dan McClenaghan By

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Kaze, one of pianist Satoko Fujii's many groups, offers up its sophomore effort with Tornado. A quartet lineup of piano, two trumpets and drums, it's sound is as idiosyncratically original and no-hold-barred as it comes. The trumpets often sound like trumpets—brassy one minute then whispery the next. The two trumpets spit hard, rapid-fire notes and long sinuous lines all in a conventional mainstream fashion that suddenly gives way to creating sound waves that don't fit into any musical genre on Earth: squabbling crows drunk on a feast of fermented fruit; Elmer Fudd after a deep hit of helium; fluttery bovine flatulence; short-circuiting electronics sizzling behind the drywall; and piercing screams that slap off the side of your head.

But that's Kaze at its most avant-garde, which make up for about one-half of its sound, out-there interludes sandwiched between sections of restrained mainstream beauty.

"Wao," penned by one-half of the trumpet front line, Natsuki Tamura (who is also joined by French trumpeter Christian Pruvost), opens with restrained two-horn harmony and a straight-ahead subdued intro, with small injections of extended techniques before the band explodes. Fuji's piano sounds like shattering glass, while drummer Peter Orins pounds into a bombardment. It's like a soundtrack to a video of someone driving a truck through a 7- Eleven. From there, the horns send out a blistering assault in front of the tumult caused by the rhythm section until all is quiet besides a chattering (trumpet) bird.

Like all the songs on Tornado, "Wao" slips in and out of solo, duo, trio and quartet interludes. Fuji and drummer Orins are compatibly combustible during Tamura and Pruvust's exploration of outer space.

"Mechanique," written by Orins, begins in a mainstream mode, an off-center but pretty ensemble groove that leads into somber trumpet meditations with spare piano comping.

The 12-minute title track gives credence to the description of Satoko Fujii as a force of nature. The storm slowly builds as inexorable movements of weather fronts moving toward a meeting. A wind chime rings to life, a dry leaf skitters along a sidewalk, and the trumpets play a forlorn duet. Then the vortex forms and winds howl before the storm passes on.

The 20-minute Fujii original, "Triangle," closes the set. It's a tune that unfolds in a measured fashion, a labyrinthine story with themes and sub-themes, quirky characters, sudden bursts of madcap action, and segments of surreal cartoon lunacy that as a whole makes perfect sense.

That's the art of Satoko Fujii and Kaze.

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