Monday, July 26, 2021

Wandering The Sound Quintet - What Is...? (2021 Not Two)

The first Wandering The Sound album in 2018 was the trio of Argentinian reedist Guillermo Gregorio, Spanish drummer Ramón López and Polish bassist Rafał Mazur, here extended to a quintet with pianist Satoko Fujii and trumpeter Natsuki Tamura for a 2019 concert at Alchemia in Poland, a masterful example of free improv based on a poem by Ikkyu Sojun, a Zen master from the 15th century.

"The joint project of Argentinian clarinetist, saxophonist and composer Guillermo Gregorio, Spanish drummer and composer Ramón López and Polish bassist Rafał Mazur resulted in the album Wandering The Sound in 2018. The LP, released by Fundacja Słuchaj!, was recorded in the B&B Records studio in Niepołomice. Piotr Wojdat writes about the album on the Jazzarium website: "Wandering The Sound will surely disappoint those who want to hear motifs, melodies or artistic stylizations tailored to their needs. Rafał Mazur on acoustic bass guitar, Guillermo Gregorio on clarinet and Ramon Lopez on drums take us into the unknown and do they do not pretend otherwise. They improvise, interact, but do not plan their next steps. They listen to each other and wander through sounds together, get to know them in a spontaneous creative act and bring the listener closer to what's playing in their souls." Considering that the album was a record of the first meeting of these three brilliant improvisers, it will probably not be that difficult for them to expand their line-up with new bold personalities. On stage at Alchemia they will be joined by the extraordinary Satoko Fujii and Natsuki Tamura.

Satoko Fujii is one of the most renowned and recognized figures in contemporary jazz. She graduated from the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston and the New England Conservatory of Music. Fujii leads many ensembles in Japan, Europe and the United States. Her collaborators include Tatsuya Yoshida, Joe Fonda, Carla Kihlstedt, Myra Melford, Christian Pruvost and Peter Orins. Together with her husband, Natsuki Tamura, she has recorded a series of duets. The two also collaborated on numerous other projects, including big bands and orchestras. Tamura was probably best summed up by François Couture at Allmusic: "Now we can officially say there are two Natsuki Tamuras: The one playing angular jazz-rock or ferocious free improv and the one writing simple melodies of stunning beauty. How the two of them live in the same body and breathe through the same trumpet might remain a mystery."

"The quintet perform[ed] a comprovisation (composition for improvisers) by Rafał Mazur based on a poem by Ikkyu Sojun, a Zen master from the 15th century." -Krakow Jazz Autumn listing

1. ...Sound 44:11
2. ...Wind 11:57
3. ...Mind 8:45

Satoko Fujii - piano
Guillermo Gregorio - clarinet
Natsuki Tamura - trumpet, voice
Rafal Mazur - acoustic bass guitar
Ramon Lopez - drums

Michael Marcus - Stone Jump (July 2021 Not Two)

Michael Marcus composed these lyrical jazz works to create a message about "New York City realities", recorded in two studio sessions with Marcus on soprano & tenor sax, octavin, A clarinet & tarogato, along with Denton Darien on piano, John Austria on Fender Rhodes, Tyler Mitchell on bass, Warren Smith on drums & percussion, and Lawrence Feldman on alto flute.

01. Stone Jump
02. The World Street
03. Dawn at Qumran
04. Fusion Anatomy
05. Baja
06. Involution
07. Flowering Optics
08. The T Man
09. Foreverness
10. Where Flamingos Dance

Michael Marcus - soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone, octavin, "A" clarinet, tarogato
Denton Darien - piano
John Austria - Fender Rhodes piano
Tyler Mitchell - acoustic bass
Warren Smith - drums, percussion
Lawrence Feldman - alto flute


Natsuki Tamura - Koki Solo (July 2021 on Libra Records)

Trumpeter-composer Natsuki Tamura Celebrates his 70th Birthday with striking new album, KOKI SOLO 

“Tamura tempers his avant-garde antics with an innate lyricism.”
— Steve Smith, Time Out New York

“You’ll never fit trumpeter Natsuki Tamura into any pre-fab category, he creates his own, then pulls you into them with him.”
—Dan McClenaghan, All About Jazz 

Trumpeter-composer Natsuki Tamura has spent more than five decades doing the unexpected with a sense of adventure, good humor, and lyricism. His latest album KOKI SOLO (July, Libra Records), which gets its title from the Japanese term for one’s 70th birthday, is no exception. His fourth recorded excursion into unaccompanied music-making naturally features his dazzling trumpet technique and imagination, but he throws in a few surprises, making his recorded debut on piano and playing a percussion set up consisting of pots and pans from his kitchen. The result is quintessential Tamura—by turns whimsical, focused, lyrical, abstract, and always surprising.

“When I play, I enjoy myself first. I am even more happy if the audience enjoys it, too,” Tamura says. “I don’t analyze what I do or what I think, I just pursue my feelings. I’m just like a child.”

Indeed, a child-like sense of playfulness and curiosity seems to underlie even the most moody and serious moments of the album. Tamura pushes ideas to see what he can do with them, to see if anything unexpected crops up. He deliberately interrupts and sidetracks himself, so see if a digression turns up something new. There’s a whimsical quality to the experimenting, but there’s always a serious intent to discover and explore, to express something in a new way. During the trumpet piece,“Sekirei,” Tamura interrupts fast, rippling lines with more spacious ones. He plays melodic lines with a clear, pure tone, then with a growling, buzzy sound. Another trumpet solo, “Sagi” is an abstract sound piece that is similarly diverse. Working with a sound pallet of strangled cries, buzzes, shrieks, hisses, and raspberries, Tamura challenges himself to create new sounds.

As Tamura explains in the liner notes to the CD, as a young musician, he would play drums in a band during last set when their regular drummer had to leave early. And at one time he was practicing piano every day as he prepared for music school entrance exams. These memories prompted him to return to those instruments for this CD. However he couldn’t fit a drum kit into the room in the apartment where he recorded the disc, so he substituted a wok and some other pots and pans. “My skill on the piano and percussion is poor compared to the trumpet, Tamura says. “But after more than 50 years playing as a professional musician, I thought that I could express my own music without any technique.”

Tamura’s musical personality and intelligence comes through loud and clear on the percussion and piano tracks. On “Karugamo,” for instance, he playfully explores the sonic potential of his assembled kitchen implements, curiously examining and combining high hollow rings, repeated taps, and dry scrapes into sequences of odd, but lovely, sounds. At the piano on “Bora,” he creates a wandering rumination as he moves thoughtfully between long rambling single note lines and carefully placed chords and note clusters, and uses the sustain pedal to create color and texture. 

In Japan, the 70th birthday is a milestone. The word for it, “koki,” derived from a Chinese poem written in the eighth century, when reaching the age was uncommon, is roughly translated as “rare in ancient times.”  Today, it’s not rare to reach one’s seventh decade, but Tamura still says, I'm surprised that I got to 70 years old.” To celebrate, he says, “I want to do only what I like to do without doing anything I don't like.” This CD is evidence he’s doing exactly that. 
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,” according to Mark Keresman of 

Throughout his career, Tamura has led bands with radically different approaches. Peter Marsh of the BBC had this to say of the 2003 Natsuki Tamura Quartet release Hada Hada: “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. It might be an unlikely scenario, but it goes some way to describing this magnificent sprawl of a record.”

In contrast, Tamura has focused on the intersection of European folk music and sound abstraction with Gato Libre since 2003. The band’s poetic, quietly surreal performances have been praised for their “surprisingly soft and lyrical beauty that at times borders on flat-out impressionism,” by Rick Anderson in CD Hotlist. Originally a quartet that featured Tamura with Fujii on accordion, Kazuhiko Tsumura on guitar, and Norikatsu Koreyasu on bass, after the tragic passing of the group’s original guitarist and bassist, Gato Libre morphed into its current configuration, a trio with Tamura, Fujii, and trombonist Yasuko Kaneko. 

Since 1997, Tamura has recorded seven CDs with his ongoing duo with pianist (and wife) Satoko Fujii and won accolades from critics and audiences alike. In addition to their intimate duo performances, Tamura collaborates on many of Fujii’s own projects, including her big bands in New York, Tokyo, Nagoya, Kobe, and elsewhere.

Tamura has released three CDs as an unaccompanied soloist, including Dragon Nat (2014). He and Fujii are also members of Kaze, a collaborative quartet with French musicians, trumpeter Christian Pruvost and drummer Peter Orins.

1. Sekirei 6:15
2. Karugamo 8:17
3. Kawau 6:36
4. Bora 9:43
5. Sagi 5:18
6. Kamome 7:14
7. Chidori 8:24
8. Isoshigi 2:46