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The jazz duo of pianist Satoko Fujii and trumpeter Natsuki Tamura have kept been able to keep their music exciting and fresh during their 15 year collaboration and their two latest releases demonstrate this fact flawlessly. Muku and Forever, which were released Sept. 5 on the Libra music label truly convey their creativity and subtle jazz style. On Muku the duo explores a softer more lyrical flow. While on Forever, which was their last recording with their original lineup since bassist Norikatsu Koreyasu passed away suddenly in September of 2011 just weeks after the band recorded the new disc live at a Tokyo jazz club, includes compositions by Tamura that refine and deepen their signature sound.
The opening track on Muku titled “Dune and Star,” begins with Tamura’s hypnotizing trumpet play that is sure to calm listeners as they listen. Tamura’s prowess with the trumpet is exemplified as certain notes are held for long periods of time. Then, Fujii enters effortlessly with the piano thus demonstrating the skill of this duo to fuse their instruments seamlessly.
The third track on Muku is the title track. It begins with methodical piano work from Fujii. The tempo of the piano and its inflections could make listeners envision hearing this track in a drama or romantic comedy where the lovers are apart yet aching for each other. After a bit, Tamura enters with the trumpet giving the track a slightly more upbeat vibe yet it still maintains its somber flow.
Muku’s sixth track is titled “In Paris, In February” and opens with Fujii and Tamura playing their instruments in perfect unison. The title of the track is perfect since listeners are sure to envision themselves walking in the “City of Lights” perhaps by the Eiffel Tower while hearing this song. The two instruments being played together could be the musical equivalent of two people sharing a chance encounter in one of the most romantic cities in the world.
Then, we move to the second album, Forever. It’s opening track is titled “Moot,” and it begins with Tamura’s cool trumpet play and listeners will be able to hear the late Koreyasu’s bass work in the background giving the song a deep jazz vibe.
The fourth track on Forever is called “Waseda,” and it’s a tad more buoyant and Koreyasu’s bass can be heard more prevalently. Then, Fujii’s piano comes in intermittently bringing a classical jazz bend to the track.
The eighth track is the title track. Koreyasu’s bass play can be heard right off the bat and the pauses in between notes give the track a sad yet everlasting melody. Tamura’s skillful trumpet work pops in sporadically in the background giving a slight big band feel.
In the end, both Muku and Forever embody the talent of Tamura, Fujii and Koreyasu and will give listeners a glimpse into how proper jazz musicians can invoke feelings of romance, sadness and tranquility through music.