Acclaimed trumpeter Natsuki Tamura and Gato Libre blend simple melody, sensitive group improvisation and understated melancholy on new recording Neko
New trio version of band with Tamura, Satoko Fujii on accordion
and Yasuko Kaneko on trombone
“[Fujii] switches to accordion in this context, giving the music a strong European flair–whether evoking a café on the Left Bank of Paris or a funeral service somewhere in the former Yugoslavia–but ultimately the tone is set by the alert contrapuntal improvising of Tamura and trombonist Yasuko Kaneko.” – Peter Margasak, DownBeat reviewing Gato Libre’s 2014 recording DuDu
“4 stars…DuDu follows the winning formula of its predecessors but, as with the other discs, eschews the formulaic. The result is another sublimely satisfying, elegant record that brims with raw excitement and a reflective nostalgia.” – Hrayr Attarian, All About Jazz reviewing Gato Libre’s 2014 recording DuDu
Gato Libre began life in 2003 as a quartet featuring Tamura, Fujii (on accordion rather than her primary instrument, the piano), guitarist Kazuhiko Tsumura, and bassist Norikatsu Koreyasu. The original quartet released five albums between 2005 and 2011, when bassist Koreyasu suddenly and unexpectedly died. After a brief search for another musician who could be true to the group’s concept while bringing an original voice to the band, Tamura invited trombonist Yasuko Kaneko to join the group as its fourth member. They released their only album, DuDu, in 2014. Hrayr Atarian praised it in All About Jazz as a “sublimely satisfying, elegant record that brims with raw excitement and a reflective nostalgia.” In 2015, tragedy struck the band again with the death of guitarist Tsumura, just days before a concert at Tokyo’s famous jazz club, Pit Inn. Tamura was devastated to have lost two of his closest collaborators in such a short time and wasn’t at all sure that he wanted the band to continue. “It was difficult to continue Gato Libre because Kazuhiko and Norikatsu were so important to the band’s original sound. They were also good friends,” Tamura says. “But Satoko pushed me strongly to keep the band going, so I tried it just once again. As a result, it was better than I expected. I think I will continue this band.”
Japanese trumpeter and composer Natsuki Tamura is internationally recognized for his unique musical vocabulary blending extended techniques with jazz lyricism. This unpredictable virtuoso “has some of the stark, melancholy lyricism of Miles, the bristling rage of late ’60s Freddie Hubbard and a dollop of the extended techniques of Wadada Leo Smith and Lester Bowie,” observes Mark Keresman of JazzReview.com. Throughout his career, Tamura has led bands with radically different approaches. On one hand, there are avant rock jazz fusion bands like his quartet, whose album Hada Hada Peter Marsh of the BBC described this way: “Imagine Don Cherry woke up one morning, found he'd joined an avant goth-rock band and was booked to score an Italian horror movie.”
In keeping Gato Libre alive, Tamura has refined his vision of the band and given it new depth and power.