Natsuki Tamura's Ko Ko Ko Ke
is the type of album that will be interpreted differently by each individual who listens to it. For me, in fact, each playing of the CD registers as a unique experience. The disc contains fourteen solo performances by Tamura alternating between trumpet and vocal. The melodies are austere and the words mostly alien--a few are Japanese, but most come as if channeled from some unknown tongue. That may sound pretentious but the result doesn't sound as pretentious as it sounds like it should sound, if you get me.
Tamura expresses a fairly wide range of emotions on the disc, though the cool, tone of his trumpet--imagine Chet Baker performing Multikulti
-era Don Cherry--tends to flatten the edges of the more joyous ones. The vocals add another layer of...well, it's hard to say meaning, exactly; let's say depth and resonance. The folk-like melody of "Peng" is playfully contrasted by the humorous, Cecil Taylor-esque use of onomatopoeia. "Honamesa" sounds like a hymn for some secret religion. "Mekinaka" has a funerary feel. "Pasurija" seems to combine elements of Buddhist chanting with bop and even martial music. The vocalese of "Taiko" couldn't honestly be described as grindcore, but fans of that musical subculture will see a resemblance.Ko Ko Ko Ke
is a striking individual effort by Natsuki Tamura. The fourteen pieces are both intimate and ultimately unknowable; the mysteries deepen with each listen rather than resolve themselves. His melodies are stark and simple, played sometimes without vibrato and at other times with a breathy technique suggesting a wind instrument. His voice is pliant, not rich in the sense of a great Opera singer but rather loaded with possibilities. This is a record that some people will love, some will hate and some will find baffling. I feel sorry for the latter two groups.