Gato Libre

Koneko
Libra Records 103-60

Vicente/Brice/Sanders

Unnavigable Tributaries

Multikulti Project SMT 019

Trumpet-focused trios which are as dissimilar as Japan is to Europe, what Unnavigable Tributaries and Koneko have in is common how each produces enough timbral and melodic designs for full musical programs in spite of limited instrumentation. Portuguese trumpeter Luís Vicente, who in part of bands with the likes of Onno Govaert works with bassist Ollie Brice and Mark Sanders from the UK, who together have been the rhythmic component of many FreeMusic groups. The connection is even closer on the other disc, since trumpeter Natsuki Tamura and Satoko Fujii, here playing accordion, are husband-and-wife. This iteration of Gato Libre has been together since 2012, with the third member trombonist Yasuko Kaneko, also part of Fuji’s many big bands.

Moving among crisp bites and mellow sputters, Vicente unspools brief melodies as well as technical extensions as the trio radiates through six group improvisations. With Brice’s thick thwacks or arco scrubs preserving or expanding the architecture, rim clanks and drum top patterns from Sanders on tracks like “Tua” make common cause with brass variations which move from melodic fillips to snarling cries to smeary motifs by that tune’s end. Relaxing into the narratives, Vicente extrapolates distinctive approaches into his solos as on “Corgo”, where his flutter tongued search for the exact note climaxes with appropriate sharpness that could come from piccolo trumpet. He further connects gurgling splutters and brass tones that appear to arise from deep inside the horn’s body tube to string strums and restrained cymbal pops. While these crammed intersections become progressively narrower as the session evolves, they unexpectedly expand into ferocious group improvising on the concluding “Paiva”. With all three contributing thematic variations, the trio members easily confirm that multiple sonic tributaries can exist in a program like this. By meshing their collective skills, they make a formidable sound journey like this one anything but unnavigable.

In terms of instrumentation Gato Libre is even more unique. But after nearly a decade of interaction the trio members have worked out an effective strategy. With most tracks taken largo or even lento, the noodling or splayed expansions from the two brass players are underlined or decorated by tremolo flows or buzzes from the accordion. Kaneko’s versatility is appropriately more upfront on these trio tunes since she has space to wallow in subterranean-pitched tones on some pieces or unaccompanied triple-tongued accents on tracks such as “Ieneko”. Meantime, when both brass players aren’t playing in unison, Tamura comes up with distinctive alp-horn-like echoes or spectacularly sluice from expression double tonguing to the instrument’s highest possible pitches. As for Fujii, despite a few dot-dash asides, she spends most of her time creating connective tremolos beneath the others’ improvisations. The trio’s most distinctive and antithetical qualities are put into boldest relief on “Doraneko” and “Kanbanneko”, which follow one another. On the concluding “Kanbanneko”, a collection of sizzles and puffs from trombonist and trumpeter also suggest mellow ballads like “My Funny Valentine”, a tendency which was intimated on earlier tracks as well. Meanwhile “Doraneko” is the most dissonant performance, with supple brass puffs gradually giving way to repeated moaning patterns from Kaneko and brassy retches at elevated pitches from Tamura as Fujii slides connective vibrations to keep up.

Unexpected instrumental mixing or number of players involved doesn’t have to stand in the way of creating memorable improvisational music. These trio sessions positively confirm that.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Unnavigable: 1. Côa 2. Tua 3. Sabor 4. Corgo 5. Tavora 6. Paiva

Personnel: Unnavigable: Luís Vicente (trumpet); Olie Brice (bass) and Mark Sanders (drums and percussion)

Track Listing: Koneko: 1. Kaineko 2. Noraneko 3. Yamaneko 4. Koneko 5. Ieneko 6. Bakeneko 7. Doraneko 8. Kanbanneko

Personnel: Koneko: Natsuki Tamura (trumpet); Yasuko Kaneko (trombone) and Satoko Fujii (accordion)