The cooperative international quartet Kaze, featuring Japanese composer-pianist Satoko Fujii and trumpeter Natsuki Tamura along with French trumpeter Christian Pruvost and drummer Peter Orins, will release Unwritten, the first completely improvised album in their 13-year history, on February 9, 2024 via Circum/Libra. Recorded live in Lille, France, the album showcases the depth and connection of the musicians.
“Romantic, cacophonous, intelligent, and thoroughly without pretence.” — Steve Mossberg, Arts Fuse
“The Kaze concept shows no sign of going stale. Every time out they freshen that concept in ingenious ways.”— S. Victor Aaron, Something Else!
With Unwritten (February 9, 2024 via Circum/Libra) Kaze, the cooperative quartet featuring Japanese composer-pianist Satoko Fujii and trumpeter Natsuki Tamura along with French trumpeter Christian Pruvost and drummer Peter Orins, have released the first completely improvised album in their 13-year history. For them it was not such big stretch. “In fact, our compositions for Kaze have always been pretexts for the improvisation,” says Orins. “Having played a mix of written music and free improvisation for so many years gives us a strong consciousness of structure, and in the end I think it’s hard to tell that what we play on Unwritten is only improvised.”
Orins points out that the album June by Trouble Kaze, a sextet recording with guests – pianist Sophie Agnel and drummer Didier Lasserre – was also improvised, but this is the first time the core quartet has recorded that way. He and Pruvost had been encouraging Fujii and Tamura to do only improvisation in concert, but they seemed reluctant. Then on a 2022 European tour with laptop musician Ikue Mori, she was unable to make the final concert. They didn’t want to play the pieces they’d been doing with Mori earlier in the tour, so they improvised. “It was great,” Tamura said, “So, we decided to just improvise on this record. ” The opportunity came on a European tour in May 2023, during a concert at la malterie in Lille, France, the hometown of Pruvost and Orins. Their method was simple. “We just played without any discussion,” Fujii said.
“We never really talk about music, except if it’s written, but even then not very much,” Orins said, adding wryly, “We prefer to talk about food.”
Of course with musicians of this caliber, their spontaneous creations have both the immediacy of improvisation and the logic of composition. The opening improvisation, “Thirteen Years,” is a marvel of balanced group development and an exercise in sonic extremes. As each band member adds their contributions to the evolving performance, the music grows organically through several arresting passages. At times it is hard to tell who or what is making the sounds or how. But if the sounds are often abstract, they always assume a musical shape. At more than 35 minutes long, the improvisation ranges from quiet and subtle to thundering intensity to haunting, otherworldly beauty.
Then in one of the band’s surprising decisions that turns out to be perfectly apt, they decided to split a second improvisation into two separate tracks. The move throws a different light on the performance, yet feels honest to the original music. “I think we felt it quite natural,” Orins said.
The moody “We Waited” traces an arc that rises to an apex and then subsides. Fujii’s piano is a melancholy, lyrical presence throughout, as Pruvost’s metallic trumpet drones, Orins’ textural percussion, and Tamura’s arresting, sorrowful vocalizations form a slowly shifting backdrop. The lamentation gives way to a climactic energized trio of trumpets and drums before the piano returns and music fades away.
An extended percussion monologue full of interesting textures and timbres opens “Evolving.” Then with Orins focusing on the trap kit and the energy level steadily rising, Fujii jumps in strumming whirling figures on the piano strings and the final minutes erupt into rumbling piano, soaring trumpet flights, and tumultuous percussion.
photo by Alexandre Noclain
Pianist and composer Satoko Fujii, “an improviser of rumbling intensity and generous restraint” (Giovanni Russonello, New York Times), is one of the most original voices in jazz today. For more than 25 years, she has created a unique, personal music that spans many genres, blending jazz, contemporary classical, rock, and traditional Japanese music into an innovative synthesis instantly recognizable as hers alone. Highlights include a piano trio with Mark Dresser and Jim Black (1997-2009), and an electrifying avant-rock quartet featuring drummer Tatsuya Yoshida of The Ruins (2001-2008). In addition to a wide variety of other small groups of different instrumentation, she has established herself as one of the world’s leading composers for large jazz ensembles, prompting Cadence magazine to call her “the Ellington of free jazz.”
Trumpeter and composer Natsuki Tamura is internationally recognized for a unique vocabulary that blends extended techniques with touching jazz lyricism. This unpredictable virtuoso has led bands with radically different approaches throughout his career. He’s played avant-rock jazz fusion with First Meeting, the Natsuki Tamura Quartet, and Junk Box. Since 2003, he has focused on the intersection of European folk music and sound abstraction with Gato Libre. A member many of Fujii’s ensembles, he has recorded 7 duet CDs with her. In 2022, he released a series of five digital albums in various settings, including a trumpet quintet, Gato Libre, a duet with drummer Ittetsu Takemura, and two solo albums.
Peter Orins leads his own bands and is a member of Trapeze, a quartet co-led by saxophonist Sakina Abdou, turntablist Joke Lanz, and trombonist Matthias Müller. In addition to serving as an artistic director of Muzzix, a musicians cooperative in Lille, France, and helming the record label Circum-Disc, he also works in theater, composes for film and animation, and has recorded the music of Moondog with the Round the World of Sound project.
Insatiable innovator of the whole sound spectrum of the trumpet, Christian Pruvost developed a very poetic and personal language for an entirely acoustic expedition. He multiplies collaborations as much in jazz as in creative and experimental music (founding member of the Muzzix and Zoone Libre collectives). In perpetual research on horns and pipes as well as different resonators and their transformations, he practices free improvisation and contemporary music, meets many artists in France and on all continents. He participates also as composer in several ensembles and collectives such as Muzzix, Dedalus, Le UN, Organik Orkestra, The Bridge, Nautilis, Ensemble 0, and more.