With his second outing as a leader, guitarist Nobuki Takamen continues his seamless merging of lyrically-resplendent compositions, with peppery, in-the-pocket grooves. A resident of Jersey City, N.J., the artist has gained steam while leading his ensemble amid numerous session related duties. He’s caught the eyes and ears of various jazz-related publications while standing tall among his peers. Takamen’s fluid single note licks and Wes Montgomery-like sense of swing and bop conveys an overall stylization that would seemingly take decades for a guitarist to master.
On three works, tenor saxophonist Bryan Beninghove surfaces as a formidable presence via his sinewy unison statements and alternating solo spots with the leader. Moreover, Takamen’s largely, memorable compositions also enable his band-mates sufficient room to breathe and explore. No doubt, the ensemble transmits an optimistic vibe, teeming with upbeat phrasings while craftily tempering the flows when required.
Takamen ups the ante on several occasions atop pianist Hitoshi Kanda’s deft chord clusters and rippling right-hand voicings. He lowers the temperature during the moody and sublime ballad "Smile," and executes windblown themes around Latin pulses on other tracks. But the guitarist tosses a curve into the mix with his steel-stringed acoustic guitar maneuvers on the folk-jazz piece titled "Nebergall Loop." They reenergize the proceedings with the modern-bop gala "Nine," where Beninghove rejoins the band for a perky swing vamp and complex storylines. Sure enough, Takamen nails it all down with finesse, enviable chops and a focused manifesto.