The "Indie" artist is indeed the backbone of American music and perhaps more so in the jazz genre than anywhere else. Nobuki Takamen's Three Wishes is a master class for a more than technically proficient and artistically gifted artist. Three Wishes showcases an amazing talent and mainstay of the New York jazz scene doing his own riff on himself within his dynamic compositions and with the expertise of a six string surgeon. True enough that good guitarists in the Big Apple are the musical equivalent of want to be actors in Los Angeles but Three Wishes gives the listener a strong indication that Takamen is in fact the real deal!
His fourth release is on the Summit label and is essentially a trio recording which for guitarists is the sonic equivalent of solo piano work as there is no place to run and hide while the artist is left completely exposed, warts and all. The most common if not logical question is who does he sound like? Simple...Nobuki Takamen. However if one must insist on a musical frame of reference take Jim Hall meets Wes Montgomery on their way to a Kenny Burrell show and you would be certainly be in the ball park. With the performances tracked into an analog recorder you are taken back in time - no compression. Warmth!
Opening with the "A Long Way Ahead" finds the trio laying it down with their own swinging post bop style where bassist Toshiyuki Tanahashi's lyrical walking bass line reminds one of the glory days of a Paul Chambers. There are two drummers that alternate throughout this release, Naoki Aikawa and Akihito Yoshikawa. Hitoshi Kands handles the piano chores on "Greenwich Village Sometimes" and "Let's Get Five." A perfect rhythm to compliment the articulated pop of Takamen's compositions and especially the second tune "Freddie's Mood." Takamen is indeed an old soul trapped in a young persons body but with that infectious ability to make old school new cool. One of the brightest six string talents to come along since perhaps Pat Metheny. Normally pop cover tunes done by a bop oriented ensemble have me cringing long before the tune even starts. Not here...A magical re-harmonization or perhaps tweaking of the Simon and Garfunkel classic "Scarborough Fair" allows Takamen and his ensemble to place their own indelible mark on this standard without disrespecting themselves or the original.
Nobuki Takamen plays clean and with articulated precision. Takamen's compositions show a keen sense of melody and lyrical purpose, nothing self indulgent here. There are simply no missed steps. Consistency. A virtually flawless release from an incredible talent. One of the 5 best guitarists I have reviewed over a two year span. Impeccable.
Tracks: A Long Way Ahead; Freddie's Mood; Underground Theme Song; Jimi's Swing; Greenwich Village Sometimes; Three Wishes; Scarborough Fair; Let's Get Five; Homeward Bound.
From 2009 via You Tube.
Photo by Tatsuro Nishimura