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Gato Libre Nomad Review

Album. Released 2008.  

BBC Review

A difficult record for those who like their jazz fast and furious...

Matt Trustram 2008

At first it seems the music of Gato Libre sits incongruously within the combined oeuvres of Japanese husband/wife duo Natsuki Tamura and Satoko Fujii, whose previous collaborations have tended towards more primal, uncompromising experimentation. On the acoustic quartet’s sophomore album, however, the music is sparse, textural and melodic. A study of the relationship between city and season; each track on Nomad evokes a European city in a specific month.

Even those not given to impressionistic listening will be absorbed by the ineluctable cinematography of the music; fragile trees, ancient waterways and ramshackle settlements drift into peripheral vision, towns come and go, and swathes of landscape pass underfoot on a journey with more of the air of reverential pilgrimage than of weekend minibreaks.

As In Krakow, In November trudges absorbedly through snow-piled streets, Tamura's airy and reverberant trumpet recalls Miles at his most laconic, with Fujii's accordion lightly applied, dabbed on for countermelody and colour. Some of the imagery is unsubtle; Fujii's accordion plays a characteristic role in the dry, dust-cold blues of In Paris, In February, while In Barcelona, In June bustles with flamenco flourishes from guitarist Kazuhiko Tsumura. The group's formidable credentials as improvisers are flashed sparsely, for colour, as on In Glasgow, In May, where droning street pipers give way to a rumbustious Ceilidh. From this palette the group create music of free-association, a kind of musical Rorschach test set by composer Tamura with rose-tinted memories for ink blots.

A difficult record, initially perhaps, for those who like their jazz fast, furious and readily-categorisable, Nomad seems to roam in search of the ingenuous, unselfconscious improvisations of childhood; the music that results is both playful and sincere, ecstatic and melancholic. Seen as such, the album fits more naturally into Tamura and Fujii's quest for the spontaneous in music.

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