Kaze – Tornado – Circum-Libra 202, 51:08 [8/20/13] ***1/2:
(Christian Pruvost – trumpet; Natsuki Tamura – trumpet; Satoko Fujii – piano; Peter Orins – drums)
Jazz knows no boundaries and free and avant-garde jazz, whether through-composed, partially written or comprehensively improvised, typically treads outside the margins more than most other types of jazz. The international quartet Kaze (the Japanese word for wind) is a case in point. The chaotic, appropriately-titled foursome was formed by trumpeter Natsuki Tamura (from Japan and now based in Berlin) and her husband, pianist Satoko Fujii (who lives in Tokyo), alongside second trumpeter Christian Pruvost and drummer Peter Orins (both men reside in France). Kaze has no formal leadership: all four contribute compositions and all members share in molding the band’s sound. Kaze came together in 2010 and issued a debut, Rafale (French for gust or burst), the same year. The quartet’s latest, Tornado, follows a similar pattern: advancing melodic shapes, often recurring and also wildly diverse, usually but not always buttressed by piano, drums, percussion, sound-making toys, and other tools and implements.
Tornado is more explosive, unpredictable and juxtaposing than the band’s first outing. There are deceptively lovely moments which contrast and/or collide with a kaleidoscope of tempo changes, timbre alterations, dissonance, and influences from jazz, European and Asian folk, contemporary classical, and avant-rock. Tornado opens with Tamura’s aptly-named “Wao” (which apparently can be decoded as “Wow” in more than one language). The almost eight-minute “Wao” initiates innocently, with twinned trumpets performing a touching melody, but then flatulent exhalations subvert the structure, Fujii and Orins rush in with discordant piano and drums, and “Wao” accelerates into a realm of energized soloing. There are very rapid stops and starts, and inverted, very outré vocalizations through the wind instruments, and squealing clamor which appears digital but is not: the result is an unrestricted and dense construction where everything and anything is permitted. The shortest cut is Orins’ “Mecanique.” In applied mathematics, the word can refer to the study of the movement of bodies and forces, and certainly pertains to this mostly tender work, where progress is deliberate and somewhat preset (the music suggests this was largely pre-arranged). The piano counterpoints against higher-register, doubled trumpets, during an intertwined, chamber music-like design with repeating lines and a relatively smooth advancement.
Fujii supplies the longest and most eclectic tunes. The 12-minute title track moves from a Balkan dance melody (which returns unexpectedly at the conclusion), to abstraction, where Fujii clambers restlessly around in the piano’s lower registers (and it would seem inside the piano, as well), while both trumpets create eerie growls, whispers, moans and other strange voice-like qualities (sometimes human and sometimes animalistic). During one section, the trumpets spit and stutter at each other like women at a fish market fighting for the last slice of salmon, while harp-like percussion and percussive piano add to the ghostly soundscape. There is controlled intensity and a mood of looming catastrophe as the harmonic interplay between the four instruments enlarges and escalates. The nearly 20-minute “Triangle” is also immersed in a trajectory which comprises beauty and agitation. The piece realigns slowly but with methodical precision. First there are drawn out trumpet breathes (no notes, just sound), then elongated piano notes, and eventually horns begin a forlorn melody while foreboding percussion flitters in the background: the effect is akin to a waking nightmare or a fever dream. Fujii amplifies the pace about seven minutes in, there is another sudden break, and a lone trumpet takes a jaunt full of spontaneous notes: the other trumpet soon does the same, in another argumentative accord. The episodic epic thus cycles through an ever-evolving pivot point, from single instrument to duo, trio and then quartet, and back and forth: “Triangle” is explorative and also illustrative of Kaze’s collective creativeness. The CD’s engineering and mixing accentuates the perception of freedom and risk: the ambiance has a live feeling, but has a suitably dry attribute: echo and reverb where it is needed (specifically the piano’s resonance), but otherwise no impression of an enclosed space. The group’s international aspect carries over to the CD packaging: liner notes are in French, Japanese and English; and the group’s 2013 tour schedule has also encompassed different geographical places. [Wow, this should be in multichannel SACD – especially as it’s Japanese! Even the best Japanese standard CD doesn’t equal an SACD…Ed.]
TrackList: Wao; Mecanique; Tornado; Imokidesu; Triangle