Satoko Fujii and Kaze

August 1, 2015 at 4:31 pm

from left: Natsuki Tamura, Peter Orins, Christian Pruvost, Satoko Fujii.
Photographer – Uncredited

May 19/15, Arraymusic,

155 Walnut Ave., 8 pm

by David Fujino


The evening started conventionally enough, with trombonist Heather Segger and tenor saxophonist Paul Newman playing a set of their original compositions. Just the two of them.

In the first tune — the staggered boppish line of Heather Segger’s composition, Series, trombonist Segger would occasionally punctuate section endings with a single lone note and in a later section, saxophonist Newman was to emerge in a full singing and solo mood. By this time, it was clear the composition was not written as a conventional duet, or as a piece of chamber music. It was written by an improvising musician.

Paul Newman’s longer composition, When I die, who will be there to count the rings? was based on a poem by Diane Krasinski. Employing vocalized extended techniques, trombonist Segger effectively encouraged a duet-like sequence to develop into a segment featuring Newman`s lean tenor, now jaw full of breathy overtones. Segger`s other tune, Another One, evoked a cat-like stalking, then a sudden pounce! on the mouse in a cartoon. In this case, the pounce! was a shiver of notes.

At times, the sensibility of trombonist Segger was like that of a French horn player, so quiet and soft-spoken was her approach to playing in the extreme high registers, so impressive were her well-placed overtones. Seeger’s trombone blended well with Newman’s equally quiet approach to the tenor saxophone. In other words, no blustery trombone and no angry tenor sounds here.

Satoko Fujii and Kaze

The powerhouse Japanese  improviser-composers — Satoko Fujii (piano) and Natsuki Tamura (trumpet) — came out blasting in a fanfare of two hard-blowing, trilling trumpets, riding on top of a piano and a drummer, playing triplets! Clearly, this close-listening group was all about the sounds of music-making — and the creative possibilities of sounds — whether they came from conventional musical instruments, or whether they emanated from the rattles and horns and squeakers found in a child’s toy store.

Kaze ‘played tunes’, but the main focus was on creating situations in which the players can freely invent — for invention’s the name of their game. It was a performance in which Kaze demonstrated their openness. They listened and responded to each other and played fervently from their unconscious. This collage approach to composition is the way of Free Jazz, with its direct sound-based approach to music making.

Also, the evening was about breath and breathing, and the group’s namesake, kaze, wind. Wind as in wind instruments. Wind as the breath of life. Wind as a presence. Kaze.

The circular breathing of the trumpets was evident this night, especially with Christian Pruvost’s bulging cheeks and his continuous manipulation of a flexible rubber tube that directed a steady airflow into his trumpet which — without its mouthpiece — became a valved amplifier for his continuous, fluent, and burbling sounds. (Circular breathing allows the musician to hold one note endlessly, breathing in through the nose while simultaneously exhaling.)

On this night, Tamura mostly left the trumpet duties up to Pruvost and busied himself with an array of percussion and sound-making objects at hand. During quiet interludes, Fujii sat at the piano bench, admiringly listening and watching the musicians make music. A few moments later, trumpeter Pruvost was writhing amidst lines and arcs of sound pouring continuously from his trumpet. Amidst all this creative commotion, Orins proved an ideal free jazz drummer — responsive and alert, he scraped small finger cymbals on the ride cymbal and produced a squealing stream of overtones; and in one developing segment; instead of playing in strict time, he stretched out the time broadly with sticks and snare drum figures. Orins supported the other players beautifully and he illuminated the music’s ever-changing personality.

“We make music the democratic way,” Fujii announced with a smile, and so the second piece began in a New Music way, with Tamura’s crinkling of candy wrappers between his hands. Soon the sound envelope developed into a spontaneous duet between the drums and Tamura’s array of percussion and sound makers. During a quiet moment, pianist Fujii (who had already made the piano sound like a marimba) slowly pulled a piano wire through the piano strings and squeezed out an eerie glistening note while — in the final enthusiastic group moment — the impressive piece of music ended with the trumpeters Tamura braying and Pruvost tonguing, simultaneously!

Apparently the last piece, Uminari,  has become a bit of a hit among audiences. Here, the musicians collaborated heavily. Pruvost joined Tamura in playing on children’s whistles; Orins sympathetically rubbed hands and fingers in rhythmical patterns on his snare drum and, as Fujii delivered low fist thumps on the piano, Pruvost stepped forward and took on a solid ‘lead horn’ role.

Then Tamura darted onto centre stage, threw down a kid’s soft toy, squeezed it, and the piece ended — not with a whimper — but with a pig’s snort!

– David Fujino –