Natsuki Tamura’s latest release Dragon Nat reveals more of what makes the trumpeter tick. Featuring eight pieces that drift between melodic coherence and raucous provocativeness, this is a disc of multiple personalities. Of course, Dragon Nat is always an engaging and invigorating listen.
The record is Tamura’s first solo outing in nearly a decade. “I think that recently there have been some changes in my soloing,” he explains. “So I thought I should make a recording of this period in my music. I wanted to make some solo music based on Gato Libre’s songs. This provides a musical direction for the whole CD.”
The force of Gato Libre, a quartet that includes Tamura and the wondrous Satoko Fujii on accordion, is indeed strong in this one.
Dragon Nat includes reimagined music from albums like Shiro, Nomad and 2012’s Forever – the last Gato Libre record to feature the late bassist Norikatsu Koreyasu. Hearing these folk-oriented tunes stripped down to Tamura’s solitary voice is a raw and idiosyncratic experience. With “Shiro,” for instance, he plays heavy melodic lines and preserves an aura of effortlessness. It is a slower, more careful piece that benefits from the intimate surroundings. Conversely, “Dialogue” is a more challenging listen. It blares with screeches, honks and cries of wheezy clatter. Stretched out over a dozen minutes, this conversation is in many ways a deconstructed look at melodic certainty. Segments that toy with traditional lines ultimately decompose with wind-filled upsurges, while bells sway wistfully in the breeze.
Tamura’s ability to move from “Dialogue” and into the more measured tones of Nomad’s “In Berlin, In September” is a testament to his versatility and his ability to anticipate the wiles of his creative soul. With no accompaniment, his playing is a clear indication of a man who listens.
“World” sounds a little like old-time jazz played on a furrowed radio, with Tamura folding in rough notes before digging into some more grounded sections. Other notes soar skyward, as though pulling away and rushing into space.
Everything about Dragon Nat is freeing. A gripping, clever, impressive recording, this disc solidifies Natsuki Tamura’s hard-earned reputation as one of the most refreshing and imaginative trumpeters on the planet.