Gato Libre square the words “avant”, “garde”, and “Japanese” with a bittersweet serenity rare in the genre—more free Zen than free jazz. While Kuro’s beautiful packaging affords pride of place to the kind of towering, malevolently charismatic cat (sans monocle, alas) last sighted in the pages of Mikhail Bulgakov, there’s not much sympathy for the devil in the tone of trumpeter/leader Natsuki Tamura. A benevolent sorcerer of light and shade, of ambiguous articulation and notes left unsounded, Tamura plays horn like Bill Wells plays piano, “Reconcile” unfurling like some forgotten, quasi-Eurasian off-cut from Wells’ minor masterpiece, Also in White, restless and immaculate. Tamura’s is a chamber-jazz deeply evocative of past musical lives, in the loping, continental folk accents of accordionist Satoko Fujii and the spindly haikus of guitarist Kazuhiko Koreyasu, archetypal melodies blurring as they unravel. And it’s all hugely filmic; fans of Tindersticks’ jazzier material will love this album, even the six minutes of improvisatory bombardment which splits the record down the middle.
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