Koneko (Japanese for Kitten) is a further exploration into the far reaches of said tone and texture. It is music to be heard with intent—not background music while making breakfast.
The album opens with Kaineko and Tamura and Kaneko introduce the theme with rich sustained tones. Pianist extraordinaire Satoko Fujii is on the accordion and the contrast in tonality of that and the horns is remarkable. If a kitten is the theme for the album, Kaineko certainly paints the picture of a lively young feline. The song ends with the ease with which it began.
Noraneko is a thoughtful play of richness and a dialogue of horn textures. While Yamaneko carries forward the accordion melody as the trumpet and trombone bound off the accordion foundation. The piece is meditative—nearly trancelike—and an occasion for introspective which I have always associated with Gato Libre.
Koneko—the title track—sees Fujii laying down a wistful melody before Kaneko takes over on trombone with warm tones that evoke a restive sense of calm. Tamura’s trumpet phases into the lead with a more energetic approach to a very similar melodic line established by the accordion and followed by the trombone. The trio closes the track out together.
Kaneko’s warbling trombone introduces Ieneko. When the accordion and trumpet assume the melodic lines, Kaneko intermittently injects a trombone pulse for punctuation and brilliantly ends the track that way. That slow lyricism gives way to one of the most contrasting pieces on the album. Don’t ever think of this as atonal. Far from it, the tones are—no matter how contrasting—very available and self-evident. There is great thought to construct and structure within every one of the pieces on this album. Even on Bakenko, when Tamura is exploring the textures of the trumpet—and Fujii and Kaneko are adding broad swaths of sound—a well-defined architecture dominates the landscape.
Doraneko follows with a melancholic simplicity that is memory-invoking and emotionally attractive. It is fascinating and captivating. Tamura explained that he wanted the atmosphere of the music to be “serene and calm.” The Improvisations of Fujii and Kaneko over Tamura’s compositions are exactly that.
That is never truer that on the final track, Kanbanneko. Even with the Kaneko’s almost siren-like lower register trombone and Fujii’s accordion playfulness, Tamura invites thoughtfulness. And thoughtfulness is serenity.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl