Gato Libre — Koneko
(Libra 103-060, 2020, CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 2020-09-11
The instrumental composition vehicle for trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, Gato Libre has operated as a trio in the years following their 2014 album DuDu, following the tragic death of founding guitarist Kazukiko Tsumura in 2015. Today the trio consists of Tamura, Satoko Fujii on accordion, and trombonist Yasuko Kaneko, building a coalescence of compositions and improvisation in a deceptively simple and seemingly effortless blend of sounds, though in fact their music is at once built on their collective virtuosity and a relaxed grasp of the form the trio has created. Standing in contrast to the wild jazz and crazy energies of Tamura and Fujii’s other endeavors like their respective solo work and ensembles like Toh-Kichi, Kira Kira, and Kaze, this latest selection of eight pieces is a somewhat gentle, folky, and at times even meditative outing, informed by their jazz backgrounds, each piece a unique canvas on which melodies and solos coexist with a subtle shimmering charm. That’s not to say that things don’t get a little crazy at times, but here everything exists in balance and moderation. The seven minute opener, “Kaineko,” launches with the softly stated melodies of trumpet and trombone, joined in short order by Fujii’s accordion, all blending together gently making a powerful opening statement, until the accordion provides some cadence and the horns tangle together beautifully, before launching into a crazy swirl, but then settling back to the smoother melodies where the piece started. With even dreamier atmospheres, “Noraneko” blends beautiful horn melodies over a soft accordion drone, criss-crossing over its near nine minute duration. There are a few crazy moments, as the opening measures of “Bakeneko” will attest, but that said the piece is punctuated with many dreamy junctures of slow-evolving melodic beauty. The title track fades in slowly on accordion, creating a surreal atmosphere that extends for several minutes until the horns make their first appearance, bringing a gentle melodic warmth to carry it forward toward its conclusion. Although a trio of trumpet, trombone, and accordion may seem like an unusual configuration, Koneko succeeds in creating a new sound that is at once gentle and unique.
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