The aptly-titled Forever is the fifth release from Gato Libre. This is sadly the last with the original quartet line-up, as bassist Norikatsu Koreyasu passed away suddenly in September of 2011 – weeks after the live recording.
Along with the departed Koreyasu, Gato Libre features Satoko Fujii (accordion), Natsuki Tamura (trumpet) and Kazuhiko Tsumura (guitar). In Koreyasu’s absence, the group has been playing with guest instrumentalists for each show but has not used the bass. “I don’t want to have another bass player,” explains Tamura, “so we have used tuba, trombone or percussion on different gigs.”
In that regard alone, Forever is a special recording indeed.
All eight compositions are by Tamura. They have a strong melodic core and float in less avant garde directions when compared to other projects, like the Fujii and Tamura duo featured on Muku for instance. With Gato Libre in general, Tamura’s exploration of the complete song has really reached some remarkable heights. Forever is no different.
“Moor” opens the record with Tamura striking an almost anthemic note with his trumpet. He walks through a melody and has Fujii and Tsumura follow with rising notes, forming a sound pattern that is not unlike what an organist might play at a baseball game. Koreyasu’s bass underlines each passage.
If there is a constant throughout Forever, it is Koreyasu’s bass. “I don’t think there’s another bassist who cares as much about his sound as Koreyasu did,” says Tamura. “I believe he was able to create the music he did precisely because he had an ideal sound in his mind that he pursued relentlessly…He created a sound, and a music, that was utterly devoid of lies.”
That hammer for the truth comes out in his bow-playing to commence “Hokkaido,” with long strokes forming a foundation of graceful sound on which Tamura builds his melody. Fujii, meanwhile, explores the contours of the accordion while Tsumura’s sharp accents spread light.
There’s also “World,” another beautiful example of Koreyasu’s pursuit of ideal sound. This is a piece that soars beautifully, underlined by his bass and the delicate patter of Tsumura’s guitar. Fujii’s tone-playing fills the gaps with colour and sophistication.
Gato Libre’s Forever is the end of an era for the group, without question, but it also lays the doors wide to new possibilities that exist in the cloth of old memories. As Tamura says, “No doubt he [Koreyasu] is out there somewhere, making a fool of himself even as he makes great music.”