Satoko Fujii and Natsuki Tamura with Kaze

The Lily Pad, Cambridge, MA, September 2, 2013

Satoko Fujii and Natsuki Tamura with Kaze
By Virginia A. Schaefer
Satoko Fujii with Kaze
By Virginia A. Schaefer
Satoko Fujii and Natsuki Tamura with Kaze
By Virginia A. Schaefer
Satoko Fujii and Natsuki Tamura with Kaze
By Virginia A. Schaefer

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Satoko Fujii, pianist and composer, and Natsuki Tamura, trumpeter and composer, have established numerous performing groups and released numerous recordings, separately and together. A married couple originally from Japan, they are now based both in Tokyo and in Berlin, Germany, and they perform throughout the world.

In 2010, Fujii and Tamura formed Kaze along with French musicians Christian Pruvost on trumpet and Peter Orins on drums. This performance was part of a North American tour, and Kaze had recently played the Chicago Jazz Festival, as part of Satoko Fujii’s Orchestra Chicago with eight other musicians. Fujii and Tamura’s label Libra has released two discs by Kaze: Rafale in 2011 and Tornado in 2013.

For this show, Kaze played six longish pieces, each organized around a few melodic or rhythmic themes. No titles or composers were announced. All the members compose, and in her remarks to the audience, Fujii said that it was not accurate to call her the group’s leader, as all members share in shaping the group.

Predominant were slowly unfolding melodic motifs, repeated and varied, usually undergirded by the pulsation of piano and drums. The trumpets played in unison and also in parallel dissonant intervals such as whole tones. A notable exception was a single short episode of 7/4 meter with pronounced drumming, sounding Turkish or Middle Eastern. The group covered a vast range of dynamics and timbre, from silence and soundless breath through a trumpet, to a roar and the ring and screech of metal.

The two trumpeters often played together as a section, with the pianist and drummer forming the rhythm section. At other times, Fujii and Tamura, the core of the group, played as a duo. Orins soloed a fair amount, as did Pruvost and Tamura, with the former more demonstrative and latter more subdued. The trumpeters sometimes made toneless sounds, such as silent blowing and lip-smacking, and they moved their heads from side to side to vary the sound’s direction.

All the music was largely composed, but the players improvised on the timbre and other sound effects as well as the notes and rhythm. Improvisation was also indicated by the large pile of sound-making toys, from which the trumpeters (mostly Tamura) selected just a few. Solos tended to be compact; the emphasis was on the group’s sound as a whole.

Tamura played the toys as seriously as his trumpet. He was especially adept with the cylinders that make speech-like sounds, in both the rhythm and the sound. Pruvost got a lot of laughs when he played a solo using a long tubular mouthpiece extension, playing the instrument at arm’s length ̶ it was the absurd image that amused rather than the fairly normal sound he produced.

Fujii often reached into the piano to play its strings directly and to place objects on or between the strings to alter its sound. Orins used various techniques and devices to expand the trap set, in particular, metallic sounds made by rubbing a metal object on cymbals to produce a high-pitched squeal. At the beginning of a work that included a lot of novel and humorous sounds, he swirled heavy brass bowls of varying sizes inside each other for a haunting and delicate sound with teeth-on-edge overtones.

In her remarks to the audience, Fujii observed that the first language of Pruvost and Orins is “amazing” to her and Tamura. She said that that even when French speakers speak about something mundane, such as fruit, it sounds like they are talking about love. At those words, Tamura smiled, nodded, and with closed eyes, silently mimed the sounds of the French language.

Intense and playful, down-to-earth and international, Kaze communicates in a musical language of contrasts and continuity.

1 Comment

  • Sep 24, 2013 at 12:26PM Peter Gerler

    Virginia--Lovely and observant writing. I could hear the screech! All best, Peter Gerler

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Virginia A. Schaefer