It's interesting how distant cultures can attract each other so strongly that their artists and aesthetes almost trade places without even knowing it. I, for instance, regard Japan's ukiyo-e period as one of the, if not THE, highest art eras in world history. At a recent LACMA exhibit of ukiyo and zen sumi paintings, my companion had to pick me up off the floor, dazed and babbling. I also practice zen (but, uh, in a way that'd have even Ikkyu tweaking my nose), and gagaku, bugaku, and noh musics drive me crazy. Can't get enough, not to mention Zatoichi and all that. Nobuki Takamen, on the other hand, was born and raised in Japan but sounds like a Jersey native by way of L.A. Cool and Chicago nightclubs. He hasn't just picked up on the classic period of jazz guitar, he's jumped into its skin and is far more comfortable there than a hell of a lot of Anglo- and Afro-American jazz cats I've heard.
Three Wishes is a non-stop boppy swing tour through what Kenny Burrell, Grant Green, Gene Bertoncicni, Herb Ellis, and then Pat Martino and later others laid out as distinctly definitive era markers, as unique in sound as what Hendrix and the later rockers created in furious distortion and speedstering. Takamen, however, possesses the kind of interpretive individuality that's both subtle and unmistakable, a lot like what Steve Khan manages when he takes on similar materials away from sessioneering. Like Khan, Takamen manages to say everything without hitting the rough side, always smooth while quietly dynamic. He also picked up a couple good drummers to augment bassist Toshiyuki Tanahashi's bassline rhythm section.
Takamen's take on the trad Scarborough Fair is Szabo-esque, slow and measured, every note pure and faithful…and then he starts messing around with tone and repetition, going flat for contrast and color, dragging the tempo, then speeding it up, everything we post-beatniks want to hear in the hoary old mode. So I say don that old beret, slide into the black slacks, slip on the cheaters, order a triple espresso, and then have a seat and just groove. Baby, it's cold outside, but inside, balmy as a late summer zephyr yet cool as cucumbers. The evening forecast is calling for increasing hipness and way-out unsquareitude, so just settle in among the cats 'n kitties 'n groove.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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