No Man's Land
Jazz fans are, by now, used to globalization. But, for some reason, Japanese Latin-jazz quartet Gato Libre still seems odd. It’s not that the music is awkward. Far from it. Nomad, the second full-length from trumpeter Natsuki Tamura and co., is nothing if not elegant. Combining trumpet, guitar, accordion and bass, Gato Libre creates an all-acoustic sound that is both austere and, to borrow a song title from Nomad, as warm as Barcelona in June. The band uses improvisation sparingly. Many of the album’s 10 tracks, all of which are named after a European city at a specific time of year, sound thoroughly composed. When the band does improvise, each note is carefully considered; each note is given plenty of room to breath. Tamura, of course, gets much of the solo space. His playing evokes the great trumpeter-explorers of the seventies—Miles Davis, Don Cherry and Mongezi Feza—yet he would never be mistaken for any of them. His playing here is too broad, too folky and too classical. Without the names attached, this would just seem like any other bunch of highly competent buskers trying to scrape together a few euros in a seaside resort. The only dissonance comes when you open the cover. Inside are four Asian musicians playing in a jazz club that could be anywhere in the world.