Nobuki Takamen: From Now OnBy
By Brian Scherzer
TGP member Nobuki Takamen first came to our attention at the 2009 Montreal Guitar Festival. Born in Japan, but now residing in New Jersey, Nobuki is attracting increasing international prominence, playing jazz festivals and high end clubs. It is always a pleasure to review a CD by one of TGP's members and From Now On, consisting of original jazz compositions, brought me an incredible amount of listening pleasure as I played it numerous times to prepare a review. What the album brings to the table is a combination of music that hit me as not only a recording that was musically solid from beginning to end, but has some exceptional engineering and production values. I admit to being an audiophile, so being able to listen to a CD that has superb sonic virtues was a blessing for my ears.
If you are a music fan who tends to shy away from jazz recordings because you just couldn't “connect” with the music, forget that bias. THIS recording just sounds right! Takamen's style is from the melodic jazz genre many of us are used to. From the opening notes on the first cut, “C.M.G.”, chordal structure and pace allow you to sit back and enjoy the music without feeling like you don't "get" what Nobuki is saying with his guitar. Yes, the music is relaxing but, in no way boring.
I could find no weaknesses in Takamen's compositions, playing or with the supporting musicians. While Takamen's guitar is obviously the dominant instrument, it sits well in the mix, allowing sufficient room for the listener to admire the stand-up bass, drums, piano and sax......each filling its own space in the wide and deep soundstage presented by this recording. At least on my audio system, the band is right in the room with you. In the case of this CD, the sense that “you are there” is truly a good thing!
Takamen's playing style is hard to define. If you are looking for blazing speed or a jazz/rock fusion style, you will be disappointed. What you get here is a well-paced sense of a player who knows how to control his guitar and chooses to have his playing fit the music. Throughout the CD there is always room left for the supporting instruments to form a foundation for the tunes. The supporting cast isn't just there to lay the groundwork; Takamen allows each musician to showcase their talents. This is especially true in the aptly titled “Nine”, which happens to be the ninth cut on the CD. Any questions about the skills of the supporting players are quickly put to rest. They are world class!
If tone is important to you, Takamen's guitar and playing highlight the purity of a clean guitar sound played with impeccable precision. He seems to enjoy a minimalist style, yet can sweep with the best of them when the music calls for it. All but one tune was played using Nobuki's 1998 Gibson ES-335 '63 reissue model. That Gibson has been his primary axe for more than 10 years. He played his Taylor 714 for Nebergall Loop. The amp setup included use of an Acoustic Image Clarus SL-R and Raezer's Edge Stealth 12 speakers. Effects used were a Boss DM-2 for a few songs and Carl Martin Surf Trem for one song. Takamen likes to use his DM-2 as kind of reverb so you don't hear a delay sound on the recording.
The key to my enjoyment of this wonderful CD is that Nobuki Takamen shows a maturity in his playing that is well beyond his chronological age. In my opinion, he constructs his compositions with an ear to the sum of all instruments, not to highlight his own skills. This creates a beautiful gestalt between the different musicians. From Now On is not a CD for the listener who wants a guitar hero. It is not a CD to buy if your concept of jazz consists of bands like Weather Report or Return To Forever. If you like a clean guitar and technical skills more than fiery, overdriven sound with a relaxing style, I highly recommend From Now On.
To listen to clips or purchase the CD, please go to THIS link.