Online since August 2002

Two different sides to trumpeter

Reviewed May 2005

Ko Ko Ko Ke
Ko Ko Ko Ke
By Natsuki Tamura

NatSat / Polystar Records: 2004

To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.

By the Natsuki Tamura Quartet

Libra Records: 2004

To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.

Japanese-born trumpeter Natsuki Tamura is probably best known as the husband and musical collaborator of jazz pianist Satoko Fujii. With these two recent releases under his own name, he shows two distinctly different sides of his own extraordinarily creative musical personality.

Asked to pick one word to describe Tamura's music, I would have said say "daring." His highly electric set, "Hada Hada," from a couple of years back might be the most bracing recorded listening experience I've ever encountered – a LOUD quartet set electrified to the point of a near meltdown.

With "Ko Ko Ko Ke," he's taken his sound to the other end of the spectrum. It's just the artist's trumpet and voice, unembellished, with an "eavesdropping on a practice session" feeling. Using an imaginary language, and sometimes Japanese, Tamura chants in meditative fashion between interludes of softly melodic trumpet playing. Spontaneous and contemplative, it's a sound suffused with an almost religious tranquility and an introspective, understated beauty.

"Exit" leans back in the direction of "Hada Hada," with everything in the quartet's quiver – even Tamura's trumpet – wired-up. Fujii plays synthesizer, providing electro-orchestral washes of harmony, in a quartet that includes Takayki Kato on guitar and Ryojiro Furusawa on drums, with Tamura exploring all range of sound on his horn: electric belches and switched-on flatulence and sonar bonks and ninety-watt groans, with the group sounding as though they're recording around a chunk of glowing plutonium. Then mix in some relatively mainstream blowing into the plugged-in colors and sounds. "Exit," happily, feels more reigned in than "Hada Hada," more structured and focused, while still maintaining the adventurous spirit of Tamura's unleashed creativity.

"Ko Ko Ko Ke" and "Exit" are two very different sides of a coin, Tamura's most interesting and compelling work to date.

Review by Jim Trageser. Jim is a writer and editor living in Escondido, Calif., and was a contributor to the "Grove Press Guide to Blues on CD" (1993) and "The Routledge Encyclopedia of the Blues" (2005).

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