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An album of duets between trumpeter Natsuki Tamura and pianist Satoko Fujii, the husband & wife core of Libra Records, recorded as a DIY effort during the 2020 pandemic in their own home recording space and mixed by themselves, a diverse album of intimate and impressive improvisations that find the two in uniquely deep and expressively concentrative conversations.
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Catalog ID: 102-064
Squidco Product Code: 30138
Packaging: Cardboard Gatefold
Recorded at their home in Kobe city, Japan, on November 1st and 2nd , 2020.
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• Show Bio for Natsuki Tamura
"Japanese trumpeter and composer Natsuki Tamura is internationally recognized for a unique musical vocabulary that blends extended techniques with jazz lyricism. This unpredictable virtuoso's seemingly limitless creativity led François Couture in All Music Guide to declare that "... 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."
Born on July 26, 1951, in Otsu, Shiga, Japan, Tamura first picked up the trumpet while performing in his junior high brass band. He began his professional music career after he graduated from high school, playing in numerous bands including the World Sharps Orchestra, Consolation, Skyliners Orchestra, New Herd Orchestra, Music Magic Orchestra, and the Satoko Fujii Ensemble, as well as in his own ensemble. He was the trumpeter for numerous national television shows in Japan from 1973-1982, including The Best Ten, Music Fair, Kirameku Rhythm and many others.
In 1986, he came to the United States to study at Berklee College of Music. He then returned to his native Japan to perform and teach at the Yamaha Popular Music School and at private trumpet studios in Tokyo and Saitama, before coming back to the US to study at New England Conservatory. He made his debut recording as a leader in 1992 on Tobifudo.
In 1997 he released the duo album How Many? with pianist Satoko Fujii, who is also his wife. It marked the beginning of an artistic collaboration that continues up to the present. The duo has made a total of five CDs over the years, including 2012's Muku. "Muku contains some truly stunning, spine-tingling music...its sheer beauty and elegance is what lingers most," wrote Dave Wayne in All About Jazz. "Fujii's orchestral technique, clear chromatic lines and "prepared piano" devices contrast effectively with Tamura's arsenal of extended techniques which he executes with a warm, vocalized tone throughout the trumpet's full range," Ted Panken said in his four-star DownBeat review. Tamura's collaborations with Fujii reveal an intense musical empathy, and have garnered wide popular and critical acclaim. Jim Santella in All About Jazz described their synergy well in his glowing review of the couple's 2006 Not Two disc, In Krakow, In November: "... the creative couple forcefully demonstrates what can happen when you let your musical ideas run free... Similarly, Tamura's mournful trumpet can fly high or low in search of his next surprise. Oftentimes, they both issue plaintive moans that sing like angels on high." Their sixth duet album is due out in 2017.
In 1998, Tamura began recording his unaccompanied solo performances. The stunning solo trumpet debut release, A Song for Jyaki earned a Writers Choice 1998 in Coda magazine, and Andy Bartlett wrote in Coda, "A fabulous set of hiccuping leaps, drones and post-bop trumpet hi-jinx. Tamura goes from growling lows to fluid, free solo runs and echoes not only Don Cherry's slurring anti-virtuosic chops but also Kenny Wheeler's piercing highwire fullness." He followed it up in 2003 with KoKoKoKe, which Jon Davis described in Exposé as "Buddhist chants from an alien planet." Grego Applegate Edwards explains that on Tamura's most recent solo album, 2013's Dragon Nat, "he pares down to focus on simple unwinding melodic material, the sound of his trumpet as a sensuous thing, a periodicity. Taken as a whole it is a kind of environmental tone poem for the moment Natsuki is in now."
2003 was a breakout year for Tamura as a bandleader, with the release of Hada Hada, featuring his free jazz-avant rock quartet with Fujii on synthesizer. Peter Marsh of the BBC had this to say about the high voltage CD: "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." The quartet's 2004 Quartet release Exit was deemed "...a brilliantly executed set with a neon glow," by Dan McClenaghan in All About Jazz.
In 2005, Tamura made a 180-degree turn in his music with the debut of his all acoustic Gato Libre quartet. Focusing on the intersection of European folk music and sound abstraction, the quartet featured Fujii on accordion, Kazuhiko Tsumura on guitar, and Norikatsu Koreyasu on bass. The quartet'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. Dan McClenaghan in All About Jazz described their fourth CD, Shiro, as "intimate, something true to the simple beauty of the folk tradition...Tamura's career has largely been about dissolving musical boundaries. With Gato Libre and Shiro, the trumpeter extends his reach even deeper into the prettiest, most accessible of his endeavors." After the unexpected passing of Norikatsu in 2012, Tamura added trombonist Yasuko Kaneko to the group. The new configuration has toured Europe and Japan and released its debut recording, DuDu, in 2014. "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," writes Hrayr Attarian in All About Jazz. With the tragic death of guitarist Kazuhiko Tsumura, Gato Libre is now a trio. They will release a CD and LP in 2017.
In 2010, Tamura debuted a new electric quartet, First Meeting, featuring Fujii, drummer Tatsuhisa Yamamoto and electric guitarist Kelly Churko. Their first release, Cut the Rope, is "is a noisy, free, impatient album, and ranks among Fujii and Tamura's most accomplished," according to Steve Greenlee in the Boston Globe.
While fronting groups and recording as a leader, Tamura has also played an integral role in nearly all of Satoko Fujii's many projects. He is featured on all of the CDs by Satoko Fujii's various orchestras (NY, Tokyo, Nagoya, Kobe, and Berlin) and has contributed original compositions and arrangements to each of their 19 critically celebrated albums. In addition, he was a featured soloist in the Satoko Fujii Quartet, her avant-rock free jazz group that also included Tatsuya Yoshida of The Ruins. Of his work on the quartet's 2003 release Minerva, Mark Keresman wrote in JazzReview.com, "Natsuki Tamura's trumpet 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."
Tamura is a vital member of Fujii's Min-Yo Ensemble as well. "Tamura tempers his avant-garde antics with an innate lyricism," wrote Steve Smith of Time Out New York in his review of Fujin Raijin, the intimate acoustic quartet's debut CD. He's also been singled out for his contributions to Fujii's ma do ensemble. "With Tamura's brash and glowing lines, the band incorporates mesmeric ostinatos and thrusting opuses into the grand schema," Glenn Astarita wrote in Ejazznews about their first CD, Desert Ship.
Collaborative groups also play an important role in Tamura's career. Most recently, Tamura joined Fujii and two French musicians, trumpeter Christian Pruvost and drummer Peter Orins, to form Kaze, which made their recording debut in 2011. In 2015, they released their third album, Uminari, which Jazz Magazine (France) called, "a compelling example of free jazz today. Compositions are perfectly scripted, with a well-oiled interaction and playing of beautiful power..." The collaborative trio Junk Box, which he co-founded in 2006 along with pianist Fujii and drummer John Hollenbeck, plays Fujii's "composed improvisations," graphic scores that take "ensemble dynamics to great creative heights," says Kevin Le Gendre in Jazzwise. Their music "is full of bluster and agitation that nonetheless retains moments of great melodic beauty, usually by way of concise, pertly pretty motifs that trumpeter Tamura plays in between bursts of withering roars that often dissolve into austere overtones." Their premiere CD, Fragment, appeared in 2006. As Daniel Spicer wrote of Fragment in JazzWise, "Tamura spits out gloriously rude Lester-Bowie-like snorts, lows like a herd of robotic cattle or makes like a wheezy howler monkey... Cool and clever." Glenn Astarita of All About Jazz declared it "Required listening."
Along the way, there have been one-off cooperative groups and sideman appearances for Tamura as well. In the Tank, an ad hoc quartet with Fujii and electric guitarists Takayuki Kato and Elliott Sharp, is a "triumphant electro-acoustic adventure" according to Daniel Spicer of Jazzwise. "Think AMM meets blues guitar meets 1970s Miles Davis and you get some idea of the disc's flavor: a slow-moving panorama for the ears, where sounds are systematically added, repeated, refined, and replaced in turn," wrote Nate Dorward in Cadence. Tamura and Fujii were one of two piano/trumpet duos featured on the Double Duo Crossword Puzzle CD, a live recording with Dutch trumpeter Angelo Verploegen and pianist Misha Mengelberg. Tamura has also toured and recorded with saxophonist Larry Ochs' Sax and Drumming Core, and appeared on albums by drummer Jimmy Weinstein, saxophonist Raymond McDonald, and CDs by Japanese free-jazz pioneers trumpeter Itaru Oki and pianist Masahiko Sato. In 2014 he released Nax, a duet album with bassist Alexander Frangenheim. Tamua has toured throughout Japan, North America, and Europe, appearing at major jazz festivals, concert halls, and clubs."-Natsuki Tamura Website (http://www.natsukitamura.com/bio)
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• Show Bio for Satoko Fujii
"Born on October 9, 1958 in Tokyo, Japan, Fujii began playing piano at four and received classical training until twenty, when she turned to jazz. From 1985-87, she studied at Boston's Berklee College of Music, where her teachers included Herb Pomeroy and Bill Pierce. She returned to Japan for six years before returning to the US to study at the New England Conservatory in Boston, where her teachers included George Russell, Cecil McBee, and Paul Bley, who appeared on her debut CD Something About Water (Libra, 1996).
Since then Fujii has been an innovative bandleader and soloist, a tireless seeker of new sounds, and a prolific recording artist in ensembles ranging from duos to big bands. She has showcased her astonishing range and ability approximately 80 CDs as leader or co-leader. With each new recording or new band, she explores new aspects of her art.
Regular collaborations include her New York trio with bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Jim Black, augmented by trumpeter/husband Natsuki Tamura to form the Satoki Fujii Four; her duo with Tamura; the Satoko Fujii Quartet featuring Tatsuya Yoshida of the Japanese avant-rock duo, The Ruins; Orchestra New York, which boasts the cream of New York's contemporary avant garde improvisers, including saxophonists Ellery Eskelin and Tony Malaby, trumpeters Herb Roberton and Steven Bernstein, and trombonist Curtis Hasselbring, among others; Orchestra Tokyo, drawing on that city's best improvisers; Orchestra Nagoya; Orchestra Kobe; the co-operative trio Junk Box with Tamura and percussionist John Hollenbeck; ma-do, a quartet including Tamura on trumpet, bassist Norikatsu Koreyasu, and Akira Horikoshi; the Min-Yoh Ensemble with Tamura, trombonist Hasselbring, and accordionist Andrea Parkins; the Satoko Fujii New Trio, featuring bassist Todd Nicholson and drummer Takashi Itani― plus countless engagements and collaborations with some of the world's most important improvisers."-Satoko Fujii Website (http://www.satokofujii.com/bio.html)
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1. Busy Day 8:28
2. Donten 11:02
3. Dreamer 5:38
4. Three Scenes 10:26
5. Keshin 7:03
6. Drop 6:39
7. Sparrow Dance 6:16
sample the album:
"Pianist-composer Satoko Fujii says, "If I don't make music, I just don't feel right, I lose my sense of self." It's not surprising, then, that Keshin, an album of duets with trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, is the third album she's recorded at home and released since the global COVID-19 pandemic made touring impossible a little more than a year ago. Undaunted by conditions that have eliminated performing before live audiences, she keeps making great music, whether it's creating new projects or revitalizing familiar settings such as her longstanding duo with Tamura. This is their eighth recording together, yet they sound as inspired now as they did in 1997 when they made their first duo CD.
The pandemic has had a few surprising benefits for Fujii. "I actually have more time to compose, practice, and think about music because I cannot go on tour. I can't even visit my parents!" she says. "Before this pandemic, we might only stay at our place for just a week out of the month. Now we stay home all the time."
Playing and recording at home took some getting used to, however. "Last year, Natsuki and I did some live-streaming concerts on Facebook," Fujii says. "At first it was very strange and uncomfortable to play music without an audience. Eventually we found it makes us concentrate more and play deeper within ourselves. Of course the reaction of the audience can affect us as we play, but sometimes we care too much how they react and loose our true voices. If we play our deepest selves, then we also can reach audience deeply. I have discovered so many things that I might never have noticed if this pandemic didn't happen."
Perhaps that's why Keshin sounds so fresh. The experience of playing in isolation at home has paradoxically made the music more outgoing, bursting with new ideas, good spirits, and closeness between Fujii and Tamura. The exuberant "Busy Day" starts things off with a bantering exchange of phrases between trumpet and piano, then segues into a long melody performed in unison. Whether playing together or separately, they seem intent on delighting and amusing one another. "Sparrow Dance" is similarly playful, a contrapuntal weave of hopping, zig-zagging lines that call to mind the nervous, perpetually in motion activity of birds. "Dreamer" and "Drop" find the pair perfectly in sync, making balanced performances with the effortless give and take between them, a convivial blend of familiar and new. The episodic "Three Scenes" is highlighted by Tamura's aria of squeaks and growls and a contrasting piano solo of exquisite longing and lyricism. The title track is one of Fujii's ravishing melancholic inventions, advanced in form but accessible in feeling, highlighted by her pointillistic unaccompanied opening.
Critics and fans alike hail pianist and composer Satoko Fujii as one of the most original voices in jazz today. She's "a virtuoso piano improviser, an original composer and a bandleader who gets the best collaborators to deliver," says John Fordham in The Guardian. In concert and on more than 90 albums as a leader or co-leader, she synthesizes jazz, contemporary classical, avant-rock, and folk musics into an innovative style instantly recognizable as hers alone. A prolific band leader and recording artist, she celebrated her 60th birthday in 2018 by releasing one album a month from bands old and new, from solo to large ensemble. Franz A. Matzner in All About Jazz likened the twelve albums to "an ecosystem of independently thriving organisms linked by the shared soil of Fujii's artistic heritage and shaped by the forces of her creativity."
Over the years, Fujii has led some of the most consistently creative ensembles in modern improvised music, including her trio with bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Jim Black and an electrifying avantrock quartet featuring drummer Tatsuya Yoshida of The Ruins. Her ongoing duet project with husband Natsuki Tamura released their seventh recording, Pentas, in 2020. "The duo's commitment to producing new sounds based on fresh ideas is second only to their musicianship," says Karl Ackermann in All About Jazz. Aspiration, a CD by an ad hoc quartet featuring Wadada Leo Smith, Tamura, and Ikue Mori, was released in 2017 to wide acclaim. "Four musicians who regularly aspire for greater heights with each venture reach the summit together on Aspiration," writes S. Victor Aaron in Something Else. As the leader of no less than five orchestras in the U.S., Germany, and Japan (two of which, Berlin and Tokyo, released new CDs in 2018), Fujii has also established herself as one of the world's leading composers for large jazz ensembles, leading Cadence magazine to call her, "the Ellington of free jazz."
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 contrast, Tamura has focused on the intersection of 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. Tamura also collaborates on many of Fujii's projects, from quartets and trios to big bands. As an unaccompanied soloist, he's released three CDs, 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. "As unconventional as he may be," notes Marc Chenard in Coda magazine, "Natsuki Tamura is unquestionably one of the most adventurous trumpet players on the scene today." "-Libra Records
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