Japanese trumpeter-composer is known for his mischievous sense of humor and he has a perfectly sensible explanation for the title of his new multi-tracked solo album, «Summer Tree». «My name, Natsuki, is spelled by two Chinese letters, Natsu – 夏 – which means ‘summer’ and Ki -樹 – which means tree», says Tamura who adds that he was born in the summer. But despite the promising title, there is nothing breezy or light in this album, and the music is actually quite dark. «Summer Tree» is Tamura’s fifth solo album in a career that has spanned more than five decades. It was recorded at his home in Kobe City in August 2021, with no post-production mixing, editing, or other manipulations, just Tamura’s inventive extended breathing techniques and his wild, ever-creative imagination.
Tamura overdubs himself and enriches his sonic palette with the piano and a wok (he released last year on his Bandcamp page a solo album of himself playing the piano, simply titled «Natsuki Tamura plays Piano», and another one focusing on playing kitchen utensils, «Nabe Kama», and these utensils were employed briefly on his last solo album «Koki Solo», Libra, 2021). His partner, pianist-composer Satoko Fujii, joins on one piece and contributes vocals. The opening title piece and the last one «Summer Dream» have composed themes played by Tamura’s muted trumpet. The other two pieces – «Summer Color» and «Summer Wind» – are free improvisations.
The title piece is a lyrical and mournful drone that captures the haunting and stressful times of the Covid-19 lockdowns and forced isolation with Tamura’s muted trumpet soaring over disturbing layers of anguished howls punctuated by additional trumpet hisses and whoops. The resonant percussive sounds of the wok, the banging on the low keys of the piano and Tamura’s snarling and grumbling, dadaist messages with the trumpet intensify the urgent and chaotic atmosphere of «Summer Color». Fujii’s manic and cryptic vocalizations on «Summer Wind» contrast Tamura’s minimalist, enigmatic yet nervous piano phrases and together this couple offers a doomsday soundtrack. The last piece «Summer Dream» returns to the lyrical and mournful of the opening piece, but now the meditative drone of the muted trumpet of Tamura is accompanied by a quiet rumble of noisy deep tones produced by his trumpet.
Innocent listeners may find «Summer Tree» strange and unsettling, but we, avid followers of Tamura, know that it was just another daily visit to his home studio.
Natsuki Tamura (tp, p, wok), Satoko Fujii (v)