Pianist Satoko Fujii and trumpeter Natsuki Tamura take to Muku with designs on once again challenging the listener. The two have consistently done so throughout their impressive careers thus far, so it should come as no surprise that their fifth release as a duo since 1997 finds a unique approach once again benefiting the material.
“We have made the duo CDs different each time — total free improvisation, improvisation with some imagination, my compositions, and this time Natsuki’s compositions,” explains Fujii. “The duo ends up taking many forms and personalities. That makes it alive and fresh even to ourselves.”
Tamura’s selections come from the pair’s work in the quartet Gato Libre, which gives the pieces an almost lyrical, songlike quality that much of their work tends to stray from. This simply supplies a construct, though, as the avant garde certainly makes its appearance.
Fujii, who generally plays the accordion in her outings with Gato Libre, sounds fresh and adventurous. “Even though I have played the pieces before,” she says, “the differences between accordion and piano, and the different instrumentation between duo and quartet make the album, for me, as if I was playing completely new repertoire. I played them as new pieces.”
From the outset, this is apparent. “Dune and Star” builds with lyrical tension, with Fujii exploring the depths and ranges of her piano underneath Tamura’s mournful, entirely contemplative trumpet.
“In Barcelona, In June” moves in another direction, playing with dynamics and sound over melody. At least initially, it is Fujii who is responsible for the melodic core while Tamura provides the range and sound. He tumbles into the ring, waving red, and summons the bull with little shards of melody among the spurts and flurries.
“In Paris, In February” is a change of seasons and locale. Rich with improvisational flourish and Tamura’s textured playing, this is a particularly thoughtful and playful number.
With “Patrol,” Fujii and Tamura explore the more humorous side of music-making. It begins with a slightly comical gait and pushes into what could be a stumbling march without a drummer, plodding through the streets like a chain of elephants “on patrol.” The imagery the two players summon is fluid, even abstract.
Muku is another sustaining release from Fujii and Tamura. Theirs is a relationship that seems to exist on another musical level, one where inspiring one another is always in the cards and pushing the listener’s boundaries while charming the palette is always on the agenda.