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Gato Libre is led by trumpeter Natsuki Tamura. He is accompanied by Yasuko Kaneko (trombone), Satoko Fujii (accordion), and Kazuhiko Tsumura (acoustic guitar).
The Japanese group formed after the passing of former bassist Norikatsu Koresyasu in September 2011. Rather than replacing a bassist with a bassist, Tamura made the unconventional decision to replace him with a trombone player, Kaneko. DuDu is the first album the group has put out since Koresyasu's death. It serves as the rebirth of Gato Libre as a two-horn quartet.
The album’s title track, “DuDu,” begins with a lone trumpet. Soon though, an accordion is introduced and the song takes a dreary tone. At times this creates a sound reminiscent of the Jaws theme song. Eventually, the trumpet is showcased as Tamura opens up a little and plays around with his scales.
“Nanook” opens with a screeching sort of sound made by Tamura, which eventually turns into more traditional notes. The mysterious, looming sound is continued into the accordion’s joining as the trumpet begins to sound like a wolf’s howl. The howling fades while the accordion persists, acting as an introduction for, first Kaneko, and then Tamura, to explore the ranges of their instruments in a fury of sound. Both the screeching and wolf howl sounds are revisited before the song is concluded with a calming strumming by Tsumura.
I much enjoyed “Cirencester,” as it puts the guitar in the spotlight. The calming sounds Tsumura supplies start the song off and remain lone for about a third of the song. While the guitar continues on to the song’s end, the accordion is slowly introduced. It and the guitar seem to do battle at one point, with the guitar emerging victorious as it continues on. The group all comes together in the last minute of the song to play, in unison, seven different chords, almost as if to signify the end of the war in which the guitar and accordion did battle.
I did not care for “DuDu” as a whole, though, mainly due to Tamura’s straying from typical tonality. I don’t enjoy the sound that comes from it, and it seems to be weaved in and out of the entire album. It may be that I am not cultured enough to appreciate the music, but the fact remains - I didn’t enjoy it. Part of me wishes I did like it more but, regardless, I am glad the group was able to recover from the loss of their dear friend and to give their fans an album they will love. While I do not personally enjoy it, I believe it will be for people who enjoy this style of music.