Nax |cs280









Free improvisation session in the studio between Japanese trumpeter Natsuki Tamura (Gato Libre, Kaze, Satoko Fujii) and German bassist Alexander Frangenheim. Ten pieces in the three-to-eight-minute range, most of them well assured. These two share a taste for playing around with silence, which gives way to some fine moments of peace, in addition to explosions like “acun10” where Tamura goes into overload mode. Not exceptional, but a satisfying listen. François Couture (Monsieur Délire)

The faint of heart need to be warned. This is not for you.

Japanese trumpet-player Natsuki Tamura and German bassist Alexander Frangenheim both master their instruments and several musical genres, but here they venture deep into unknown territory. Not necessarily new to them, because Frangenheim is known for his adventurous spirit - as on his solo album "The Knife Again" - and so is Tamura of COURSE.

Tamura and Frangenheim create a strong and intense, fierce and uncompromising dialogue between two instruments, with the trumpet sounding like you've rarely heard a trumpet, animal-like, zombie-like (as in "The Walking Dead"), but most of all human, unleashing deep emotions in shouts and howls and shrieks full of agony and fear, but then of the trembling kind, when the air in the windpipe get suppressed by paralysing emotions, or with a closed mouth because of teeth clenched out of painful muscular tension. And Frangenheim's bass is maybe less in the forefront, yet especially in the pizzi parts, the level of unease and dread are reinforced.

But then suprisingly, somewhere in the middle of "Acun 4", bass and trumpet sound as you would expect, with clarity of tone both, a surprising moment of release and relief, yet with. "Acun 5", which sounds like the twitterings of animals in a birdcage, they're back in into the unknown, and it's fascinating to listen to for the glorious interaction and organic interplay.

The whole album is acoustic, and that's even an essential aspect of it, because both artists SHARE and use the physicality of their instrument and its sound possibilities to perfection. This tangible and muscular work on the creation of sound, even noise, brings a deep authentic reality to life, one which most music can only dream of. Stef (Free Jazz)

Every time I pick any random release from the heavy pile of releases I receive from Portuguese label Creative Sources, it's really rare that I find some banal item. This time I picked (by chance) an output by NAX, a collaborative project by double-bass player Alexander Frangenheim, whose name already appeared on some of my past reviews, and Japanese trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, whose name could be known by some ardent followers of jazz as a member of the eccentric vocal jazz band Gato Libre, but such a biographical note could be deceiptive in order to understand his role in this duet. If we had to speak by referring to some style of jazz, I would define their sound neither free jazz as such a label could be likewise deceiptive, nor irrational or illogicalas their tweaked approach to harmony or tonal (dis)organization is other than irrational or illogical. The name of the project as well as the cover artwork seem to refer to the mountainous region of former municipality of Nax (now a part of Mont-Noble) in the Swiss Alps, so that such an orographical reference almost implies that their seemingly undiscinated research that they spread over nine tracks - they called them "acun", which is the abbreviation of Swiss company mirrors the rough surface of Nax as if they wanted to make their style as a question of exquisitely physical realism! You could imagine the that "chaotic" equence of rocks, hanging valleys, cols, ridge, saw-toothed peaks is the main score or the guideline of the intersections of the mad alternation of pizzicato and arco by Alexander and the vocal and breathe emulsions within trumpet's pipe and valves by Natsuki. Such a matching could tease the listening experience that comes from NAX. Vito Camarretta (Chain DLK)

Slippery as the terms may be, labeling these trumpet plus low-strings duos as “avant-garde” or “experimental sounds” confirms that the programs wouldn’t be what you would get from a duet of Doc Cheatham and Major Holley or even Nat Adderley and Sam Jones. Like fun house mirror reflections, the meetings between Japanese trumpeter Natsuki Tamura and German bassist Alexander Frangenheim on Nax […] eschew song forms to deal with the instruments’ capacity to generate unique, unspecified sounds. [ …] Like the culmination of extended techniques demonstrations, the Berlin-recorded studio tracks’ encompass generous pauses, verbalized nonsense syllables, didjeridoo-like gusts and cello plucks, with a summation that balances signaling rhythms and staccato blasts. However the anomaly that is “Trenches” suggests what would have transpired if Peter Brötzmann’s “Machine Gun” had been recorded by one trumpeter and one cellist. A cacophonous Free Jazz blow-out, the broken-chord col legno cello strokes and guttural plunger growls could also be heard as raucous burlesque of a macho approach to abstraction.
Veterans, Tamura and Frangenheim may be male, but while their version of double bass-trumpet interaction may sometimes be deafening and rambunctious, it’s also lacking in macho posturing by design. That’s because the veterans have participated in as many Free Music variations as seemingly exist. In the bull fiddler’s case this has involved interaction with German and British improvisers such as trombonist Günter Christmann; and in the brass player’s experience with a similar number of French, American and Japanese innovators, most prominently his wife, pianist Satoko Fujii. However unlike the other duo, no matter how many extended techniques are used, there there’s no question that a trumpet and a double bass are the instruments recorded.
Tamura who made some excellent duo sides with drummers Jim Black or Aaron Alexander at the turn of the century equals that work here, ironically enough since Frangenheim is a particularly percussive bull fiddler. Tracks such as “Acun02”, “Acun07” and “Acun08” for instance feature as much high energy sawing and stropping as spiccato thrusts or guitar-like plucks on the bassist’s part. When Frangenheim’s crackling involvement become as red hot as a barely controllable bush fire, wood on front and back of his instrument is in play as well as the strings and bow. For his part the trumpeter faces these slaps and sweeps with an assembly line-like continuous collection of wet mouthpiece kisses, blustery fowl call approximations and toy-like squeaks. Other tracks are even more violent and expansive with col legno string splats facing disconnected bugle-like blats, plus darker expirations with a combination of maniac and baby cries challenging slaps and pumps. Most notably the extended “Acun06” could be defined as traditional Free Jazz. Constantly accelerating and narrowing the narrative, as pulls and stops make it appear the bassist is wiping his bow over his strings, the trumpeter responds with a wide-bore approximation of brass circular breathing until the two reach a conclusive blend.
Still these instances make up only a few chapters of this tale, with a track such as “Acun04” illuminating other musical paths. Beginning with cramped tremolo tones from Tamura and clanking strums from the bassist, half-way through the narrative becomes melodic. While not quite in the Cheatham-Holley genre, that mellow trumpeting and bouncy strokes certainly come close to mainstream Jazz. This expressiveness is confirmed on “Acun05” where despite snarky brass whistle and bolo-bat like strokes from Frangenheim, it’s obvious that close-listening on both sides is responsible for each response with stopwatch-like efficiency.
Nax is an outstandingly mature instance of up-to-date Free Jazz from a duo who knows all of its ins and outs. Ken Waxman (JazzWord)