“Trouble” is another word for “danger,” but can also describe an ensemble that comprises of two trumpeters, two pianists and two drummers, i.e., a double trio/triple duo. That’s the configuration that the French-Japanese improvised music quartet Kaze found themselves with when two more French musicians Sophie Agnel (piano) and Didier Lasserre (drums) were added to the Natsuki Tamura/Satoko Fujii/Christian Pruvost/Peter Orins ‘Kaze’ combo.
But by increasing the depth of the piano and percussion sonorities, the conventional meaning of trouble also applies Trouble Kaze, as they use unconventional methods in thriving on the danger of constructing a musical, passionate narrative on the spot, now involving six artists moving together. In concert, no less.
That’s the output packed into Trouble Kaze’s debut CD June (March 3, 2017 from Circum-Disc), a free jazz symphony of the sort you wouldn’t hear anyplace else. Lending to the symphony feel is a single performance traversing over five phases, or ‘parts,’ separated by turning points where the atmosphere shifts.
The music is mysterious to the point where it’s sometimes not even clear who is making what sound like the opening chord on “Part I,” which actually mimics an overdriven electric guitar. Everyone exploits the full tonal capabilities of their instruments — down to Pruvost using a plastic tube to blow into his trumpet — and rarely does anyone play them in a typical manner.
Those drums, for instance are used for a colorful percussion exhibit that consumes “Part II,” and I’m straining to find anyplace where Orins and Lasserre are keeping time. The pianos sometimes participate in percussion and Fujii and Agnel are seemingly inside their pianos more than they are in front of them. When the keys are played, it’s often done as minimalist repetitions or the random striking of chords. Trumpets are blown into but sometimes notes don’t come out of the other end; instead there might be the white, static murmurs like the hum of generators.
A couple of pianos and drums a piece to go with a dual trumpet section can make an impenetrable noise but Trouble Kaze keep a lot of powder dry; they summon the full force only on a few occasions: the brief explosion 1:37 into “Part III” is an exception that sticks out because at came from nowhere and that outburst wasn’t repeated, although things do get calamitous in the dramatic buildup toward the end of “III,” when dueling horns growl at each other in the middle of this maelstrom.
Rather than taking up tonal space, the sextet often prefers to leave capacious spaces, the longest section “Part IV” going from barren to near complete silence at one point. “Part V” is only slightly denser, eventually suggesting tension but the release never comes.
In spite of the dispersed nature of Trouble Kaze’s June, the addition of Agnel and Lasserre allows this group to do much more than they had been able to do as a quartet and they fully takes advantage of the opportunity. What is given up is the synergy that is possible from less musicians involved…except that in this case, the interplay is as strong as it was pre-Trouble.
And in the final analysis, that’s the major accomplishment of June. Trouble Kaze is an inspired way to extend and expand on the ideas first put forward by Kaze.
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