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SATOKO FUJII, NATSUKI TAMURA & RAMÓN LÓPEZ

«Mantle»
NOTTWO RECORDS, MW 1003

Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii recorded with Spanish, Paris-based drummer Ramón López the duo album «Confluence» in New York in 2018 (Libra, 2019). The next year Fujii invited López to join her and her partner, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, for a 9-concerts tour of Japan. During this tour, Fujii, López and Tamura, on their first tour ever as a trio, wrote every day a new composition for the trio, each of these compositions was inspired and reflected last night’s musical and traveling experiences. Nine of these compositions, three by each musician, made their way to «Mantle», recorded the day after the tour at Yawatahama Yumemikan in Ehima in September 2019. López, who is also a visual artist (and a karate master), did the cover art.

«Mantle» highlights the great promise of this trio, as a working group with a unique, collective identity, and as a unit of strong-minded and bold composers-improvisers who keep challenging each other’s and each one’s compositional strategies. Each of the nine pieces stresses the distinct strengths of the three musicians as well as their natural affinity, and all offer compelling dynamics and insights into this resourceful trio’s work-in-progress approach.

Fujii’s «Nine Steps To The Ground» focuses on the powerful and intense, yet organic conversational dynamics as well as the mastery of texture and development of López. «Your Shadow» is an openly emotional and dramatic ballad, colored beautifully by the singing voice of Tamura and the light phrasing of López. «Autumn Sky» tells one of Fujii’s enigmatic-dramatic stories, always with surprising, intuitive forking paths.

López’ «Metaphors» emphasizes the expressive, lyrical and somehow eccentric side of Tamura and his telepathic interplay with Fujii. «Straw Cat» expands this lyrical vein, now articulated by the trio as a tight unit, relying on the dance-like rhythmic patterns of López. The closing piece «The Temple Bell» builds its cathartic power slowly with layer upon layer of delicate rhythmic games.

Tamura’s «From Spring To Summer» alternates between high-energy eruptions to gentle, melodic segments. López inventive drum solo opens «Encounter» and establishes a series of fast-shifting rhythmic games with Fujii and Tamura. «Come, Left» employs again López highly nuanced rhythmic language for a playful and wild interplay.

Fujii always knew how to find excellent musical partners, and the telepathic interplay with Tamura and López demonstrated throughout «Mantle» proves that she has established another great band.

Eyal Hareuveni 

Satoko Fujii (p), Natsuki Tamura (tp), Ramón López (dr)

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