Nobuki Takamen Interview with Jazz Guitar Life

“I took two lessons from Gene Bertoncini when I moved to Jersey City from Boston. He asked me to play solo guitar in his second lesson and I played my solo guitar version of ‘’My Shining Hour’’ in Eb. He asked me to play it again when I finished playing, so I started playing it again. He suddenly said to me, ‘’Why are you playing the same EbMaj7 chord in the same position all the time? We have so many ways to play EbMaj7 chords. Try something new and find something good!’’ Then he started showing me many, I mean so many different EbMaj7 chords. No one had ever told me and that was like eye opener.”

Nobuki Takamen

Nobuki Takamen is an International performer who has just returned from a month long tour of Japan. Originally born in Hiroshima, Japan, Nobuki has found his way to Boston and Jersey City, New Jersy in an attempt to be the best player he can be. In this interview, Nobuki shares his thoughts on Jazz, Japan, and former teachers Gene Bertoncini and Sheryl Bailey. A must read.

This interview was conducted via email November, 2007. Check out his website at www.nobukitakamen.com

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JGL: How old are you?

NT: 30

JGL: What geographical area do you live in?

NT: I live in Jersey City, NJ.

JGL: How long have you been playing guitar for and at what age did you first get into guitar playing?

NT: I started the guitar at 14, so I’ve been playing for 16 years.

JGL: Were you interested in jazz from the beginning or were there other musical interests before jazz?

NT: I started playing songs by Simon & Garfunkel and Kaguyahime which is a famous Japanese folk group. These songs seemed to be easy on my acoustic guitar and I really enjoyed playing and singing them. My uncle was a big fan of American 50’s & 60’s music and let me borrow his records. I’d listen to the records and learn from them.

One big turning point was when I listened to Cream. I first heard Eric Clapton’s unplugged version of ‘’Tears in Heaven’’ on the radio. I got that record and would listen to it all the time. I got another record, ‘’Story’’ which included Cream’s live version of ‘’Crossroads’’. His solo on the song knocked me out. I tried to figure out how he did that, but I couldn’t. I figured out why he could play that high note later. He played the electric guitar, not the acoustic one. I guess I really didn’t know anything about guitar at that time. I couldn’t do anything on that solo until my parents bought me my first electric guitar when I graduated from junior high school. The first guitar solo I learned was actually this one and it took me more than one year to be able to roughly play along with the song. I was so lucky I picked really hard one because it was like a nice springboard to the others. Then I started listening to a lot of rock guitarists like Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Eddie Van Halen and Akira Takasaki from Loudness. They all improvised and I naturally started improvising by listening their albums, especially live albums.

I moved to Tokyo after graduating from high school in Hiroshima where I’m originally from. Tokyo is the biggest city in Japan and I met so many people playing music there. They knew lots of music I’d never heard before and played various kinds of music. They introduced me music like R&B, Soul, Funk, Jazz Rock, Fusion and Jazz. I really loved playing with them and I learned so much from them.  Anyway, I was just listening to Jazz they introduced and I wasn’t into it so much. But when I discovered Wes Montgomery’s album, ‘’Incredible Jazz Guitar’’, it completely blew my mind. I seriously started playing jazz when I was 20.

JGL: Can you recall that particular moment that first excited you about jazz guitar or jazz in general? The one that made you say “that’s what I want to do”!

NT: I remember I was so excited when I first listened to Wes Montgomery. I was really impressed by his guitar tone and time. He was so much different from the guitar players I’d listen to. I was also so excited when I first listened to Pat Martino and Grant Green.

JGL: What was your first guitar and what are you playing now?

NT: My first guitar was a Yamaha acoustic guitar. My main guitar now is a Gibson ES-335. My another instrument, guitar amp is Acoustic Image Clarus and Raezer’s Edge Speaker (Stealth 10 or 12). These are really great gears and so easy to carry, which is great especially when taking subway in the city like NYC. It goes without saying that I’m completely happy with the sound.

JGL: Who were your influences on jazz guitar when you were beginning, and have they stayed the same or have they changed over the years?

NT: Wes Montgomery, Pat Martino and Grant Green were the most influential guitarists and they still are the best.

JGL: Who are you listening to today(guitarists or non-guitarists)?

NT: I always listen to Wes Montgomery, Grant Green and Pat Martino. I’m recently listening to Gene Bertoncini, George Van Eps and John McLaughlin, particularly his trio album with Elvin Jones. George Van Eps’s ‘’Soliloquy’’ is one of the greatest solo guitar albums.

For non-guitarist, I’m listening to Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Art Blakey and Keith Jarrett these days. Keith’s solo album, ‘’The Melody At Night, With You’’  is one of my favorite albums. I’m also listening to a singer, Sara Gazarek and her band a lot. I like their original stuffs and the way they play and arrange jazz standards so much.

Besides jazz, I listen to Jimi Hendrix, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and Japanese CDs my sister sent to me.

JGL: Who has been most influential in your life as a Jazz Guitarist and why?

NT: Needless to say, Wes Montgomery, Grant Green and Pat Martino have been the most influential and I learned so much from a great guitarist, Sheryl Bailey. But when I have to decide one guitarist, it would be Gene Bertoncini.

I took two lessons from Gene when I moved to Jersey City from Boston. He asked me to play solo guitar in his second lesson and I played my solo guitar version of ‘’My Shining Hour’’ in Eb. He asked me to play it again when I finished playing, so I started playing it again. He suddenly said to me, ‘’Why are you playing the same EbMaj7 chord in the same position all the time? We have so many ways to play EbMaj7 chords. Try something new and find something good!’’ Then he started showing me many, I mean so many different EbMaj7 chords. No one had ever told me and that was like eye opener. Since then, I always try to be as creative as I can every time I play the guitar. It was really great lesson.

JGL: According to your bio you were born in Hiroshima, Japan. Did you find it difficult to develop as a Jazz Guitarist in what is considered to be a predominantly American art form?

NT: I think the answer is yes and no. There is a great jazz scene in Hiroshima and there are many great players. It wouldn’t be that difficult to develop as a jazz guitarist.  But Hiroshima is not big cities like Tokyo and Osaka. It would be a little different and more difficult from this point of view.

JGL: Is there a jazz scene in Japan and if so, how difficult is it to work there playing music?

NT: Yes, there are so many great jazz musicians in Japan and there are great jazz scenes in everywhere, for instance,  like in Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Hiroshima, Fukuoka just to name a few. I think each scene has its own unique character. I feel a little difference between when I play in Tokyo and when I play in Osaka, even though these are the two biggest cities in Japan.

For me, it’s always a little hard to work there playing music because I live in the USA and I go back to play there almost once a year. But things are getting better. I always keep in touch with people there and people start knowing my group, which is great.

JGL: Are there any other Japanese Jazz Guitarists that you feel the world should know about?

NT: Yes, there are many great Japanese jazz guitarists such as Nobuyuki Oka, Sadanori Nakamure, Yoshiaki Okayasu, Satoshi Inoue, Yoshiaki Masuo and many more.

Nobuyuki Oka who was actually my first teacher is a great player performing in the Yokohama area. Sadanori Nakamure and Yoshiaki Okayasu recently released the album, ‘’Route Bagu’’ from What’s New Records. The instrumentation is two guitars, bass and drums. There are not so many albums with this kind of instrumentation. This one is worth checking and their guitar sounds are amazing. Satoshi Inoue is a New York based. He played with Jim Hall at the Village Vanguard and that was one of the best guitar duo concerts I’ve ever seen. He has three albums released from What’s New Records and these are my favorite albums. Yoshiaki Masuo had been the member of Sonny Rollins band for a long time. I really like his latest album Are You Happy Now? with Larry Goldings on organ and Lenny White on drums.

There are so many more Japanese jazz guitarists and lots of exciting stuffs happening there, so I hope more people will have open ear for Japanese jazz guitarists.

JGL: You eventually made your way to Boston to study at the Berklee College of Music. What was so special about the Berklee College of Music that made you want to leave home and travel so far away?

NT: This is a long story. I went to New York in the course of my travel when I was 21 and was already into Jazz. I’d go to record stores in the daytime and jazz clubs in the nighttime. I got the chance to see many great musicians. That was great experience.

By the way, I found a book store somewhere in the Midtown and started browsing. I found an interesting book called ‘’The Jazz Style of Tal Farlow’’ by Steve Rochinski. It was during this time I started listening to Tal Farlow, so I immediately purchased the book. I read the book a lot after getting back to Japan and learned so much from the book. I found out that Steve taught at Berklee later on.

When I decided to seriously study music and was looking for good place to go, I remembered Steve taught at Berklee and I thought it would be great to study with the one who wrote my favorite book. Plus there were so many great musicians teaching there. I actually told Steve about this story when I graduated from the college.

JGL: How advanced a player were you when you applied to Berklee and what did you work on to get accepted to the school?

NT: I just only knew a few standards like ‘’All The Things You Are’’, ‘’The Days of Wine and Roses’’, ‘’Donna Lee’’, ‘’Confirmation’’ and some blues heads. It was hard for me to play songs by Wayne Shorter, Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans and John Coltrane, though it’s still challenging for me. I couldn’t read music so well, so I spent long time to practice my sight reading. When I applied to Berklee, I think I recorded one jazz standard and sent the tape to the college. Then I got accepted to the school.

JGL: While at Berklee whom did you study with and what was your overall experience at the Berklee College of Music?

NT: Like I mentioned before, I studied with Sheryl Bailey and I learned so much from her. I learned so many things such as approaching technique, diminished scale, creating lines, etc, but I especially learned how tone and time are important. Listen to her records, you’ll be surprised at how her tone and time are great!

I also studied with great guitar players such as Jon Wheatley and Steve Rochinski. Jon is really good at playing chord solo and knows countless tunes. He introduced George Van Eps’s ‘’Harmonic Mechanisms’’ to me. I worked with these books so hard and these books opened my guitar fingering possibilities.

I learned especially compositions from Steve. I took his advanced harmony class and advanced modal harmony class. I had to compose for almost all classes, which was good for me because I didn’t compose regularly back then. He gave the tools to compose. He personally gave me advice when I left Boston for New York. ‘’You gotta keep learning tunes, man! That’s all you gotta do!’’ Now I know why he said that. It’s so important not only as a jazz guitarist, but as a composer.

I also took an interesting class called ‘’Music Career Planning Seminar’’. It’s a kind of introduction to the music business. We studied basic things like music bio, resume, business card, taking an interview and things like that. One of the project was making our own press kit. This was so interesting and I think the things I learned in this class are still helping build my career.

In the bottom line, I learned so much and that’s the most important thing. My overall experience was fantastic.

JGL: Did you have any friends who were also into Jazz when you were growing up in Japan?

NT: No, I didn’t. But I had friends who were into blues. We had a rehearsal space nearby our school. There were amps, drum set and everything. We’d jam night and day, which was really great.

JGL: You have studied with some great artists/teachers including Sheryl Bailey and Gene Bertoncini. What was it like studying with those individuals? Did you choose those specific teachers because of their own unique playing style?

NT: I studied with Sheryl when I was Berklee student and took her lessons for three semesters, I think. In the end of each lessons, we’d usually play duo and that’s when I learned so many things I can’t explain. What always amazed me about Sheryl was that she always sounded better than previous lesson. When I didn’t play duo with her for a while, like summer vacation, she’d sound so much better the next time. That’s the most important things as a musician. I think I always want to be like works in progress rather than works done. I mean, I’d rather try to make progress than satisfy with what I think it’s good now.

I took two lessons from Gene after graduating from the college. I’ve known him since I got his duo album with Jack Wilkins in Japan and I’d heard so much about him from Sheryl and so many other great players. It was just amazing to be able to play duo with him. I felt like I was playing with someone I’d known for a long time. I’ll never forget what he told me when I left his room after my last lesson with him. ‘’Playing the guitar is like an endless journey!’’

I now have two goals in my life. One is to have a pool table in my house and the other is to keep playing guitar for my entire life.

JGL: What prompted you to move to Jersey City, New Jersey and has the move helped your music career?

NT: My roommate in Boston graduated from Berklee one year before I did. He found a room in Jersey City and I took over the room when he moved back to Japan. I’d visited him one time, so I knew a little bit about neighborhood before moving in.

I’m glad that I moved to Jersey City. There are so many great musicians and artists living in this city. It’s just one river apart from NYC and it’s so much different. This city has its own unique vibe and I like it so much. I’m sure the move did help my music career. If I had gone back to Japan for good right after graduated from the college, a lot of things wouldn’t have happened.

JGL: Did you know early on that music was something you wanted to do as a career choice and if so, what were some of the things you did to make this choice work for you?

NT: No, I didn’t. I just liked playing music and it didn’t matter for me whether it’s professional or not. But I was always serious about playing guitar and practiced hard all the time. I gradually started thinking about music as a career choice when I was 21 or 22.

JGL: How difficult do you find it making a living as a jazz guitar player, or have you found it to be relatively easy?

NT: It’s not easy, but it’s fun. To be honest with you, I can’t just play jazz to pay my bills. I play other music and teach music of various styles and it’s mostly not jazz. But I love kids and teaching. I really enjoy teaching. That would be great if I could go to their concert in the future. I always try not to see things from one point of view because there are so many things we can do in this business. In other words, there are so many things we can do in order to keep playing jazz.

JGL: Were your parent(s) and family members supportive of your musical career choice?

NT: Yes, they really are. My parents ran Futon shop in Hiroshima, so I didn’t come from a musical family and nobody in my family can play any instruments.

My sister would bring me to the concerts of a guitarist who could play like Eddie Van Halen and Steve Lukather when I was high school student. I think she knew a band member and that’s why she knew when and where he played. I’d be watching his fingers and would try to do the same things after the concerts. Since there weren’t so many instructional books or videos available back then especially in the small city like my hometown, that’s how I learned so many things and it helped build my guitar chops.

Anyway, enough about my chops now, my parents didn’t steer me towards other career choices and they’re always supportive and so patient. I’m so happy with the fact they’re always listening to my CD. I really can’t thank them enough.

JGL: Do you teach privately and if so, how does one go about studying with you? Is there a particular level of student you are looking for?

NT: Yes, I do. They are really serious about music and love playing guitar. They always come up with new musical questions. They don’t come up with silly question like, ‘’What was the homework??’’ (laugh). One question always leads them to the next topic they want to work on. Because that comes form what they didn’t understand and really wanted to understand. That’s where they need to work on.

I’m happy to teach any levels as long as they love music and playing guitar. That’s all I’m looking for. People interested in my lesson can email from my web site at www.nobukitakamen.com.

JGL: What is your practice routine like these days? Do you work on specific things or just play tunes?

NT: I usually spend about an hour on physical exercise like my right hand (picking) technique and my left finger technique using scales, arpeggios and chords. Then I play jazz standard with and without a metronome. I usually pick one or two tunes a day and play in different keys, tempos and styles. I also play melody in different positions and different registers. I think these increase the fingerboard dexterity a lot and are also good ear training.

I started doing an interesting picking exercise almost a year ago. I’d always play notes on down beats with down picking and on up beats with up picking and that was how I always practiced and played. Now I practice also playing notes on down beats with up picking and up beats with down picking. That means playing upside down. It took a while to get used to it, but now I have two places to start with and that gives me more freedom when I improvise.

JGL: Could you describe some of your best musical situations or experiences and the worst?

NT: There were so many great moments in my musical life. It’s hard to narrow down but one of the best situations was when I played at a jazz club in Hiroshima in September 2004. My grandmother was alive at that time and she and my family came to my show. It’s the greatest thing for me to play for my families. Another my recent best situation was with my group at the Rochester Jazz Festival in June 2007. We had a great supportive audience and the band sounded just as great. We played for more than an hour but it was like a minute for me. Great time always passes too quick.

The worst musical situation is always when I’m sick. I had a gig with a singer not so long ago and had cold from the morning. I was suffering from a really bad headaches and it was just hard to even walk because my head hurt so bad. But I couldn’t miss that gig. I could manage to get to the bar where we played. We started playing and I kind of had to play like Freddie Green for the gig. I mean the worst thing happened that night was my head hurt four times per measure. It was like some kind of torture.

JGL: What type of musical situation do you enjoy the most (ie: trio, quartet, duo, solo, etc.)

NT: I like duo and trio a lot. I often play duo with Hitoshi who is the pianist on my recording. I also play duo with guitar, bass or singer often, sometime saxophone or trumpet. You always listen to and react to what the other’s saying. I can do different things from the other does, or I can do the same things as the other does. It’s the same concept as counterpoint. That’s the part I mostly enjoy about playing duo.

I also like trio, especially guitar, bass, drums format. I can be playing solo and also playing duo with bass or drums. It’s like improvising on instrumentation. And I’ve been listening to so many trio albums like Keith Jarrett, Oscar Peterson, Joe Pass, Barney Kessel and so on. I really like this format and it’s always challenge. I’ve been playing guitar trio with a great drummer, George Mastro. We always have great bass player, either Henry Lugo or Preston Murphy. I’d like to record us in the future.

JGL: Have you always been a leader of your own group or did you cut your teeth as a sideman first?

NT: I’m not always a leader. I’m in several groups and also play with singers. I really enjoy being a sideman as much as I do as a leader.

JGL: Your debut CD Bull’s Blues is a wonderful session that showcases your strong improvisational sense and melodic compositional approach. How did the album come about?

NT: Thank you so much! I had my first Japanese tour in 2004 and I didn’t have my CD. People came to my show asked where they could get my CD. Though I had a few songs which they could listen to on my web site, I realized I had to record and make my album so that they could listen to my original songs. That’s why I started thinking about recording my songs and making a record. I’d already have many songs, so I carefully decided on which songs I’d record. I tried to make an album like people could listen to over and over.

Making one album asked really hard work. Especially I didn’t have a label to produce my CD and I didn’t know what to do and how to do in order to release, distribute and promote my CD. I actually bought one book about music business and studied so hard.
It really helped.


JGL: Does the title of your CD have any special meaning?

NT: Yes, it does. ‘’Bull’s Blues’’ is the name of blues I composed and the first track of the CD. It actually has to be ’’Bulldog’s Blues’’. We had a bulldog in my parent’s house and this is one for him. He unfortunately passed away five days before the recording.

JGL: All the tunes on Bull’s Blues are original compositions. Was this a conscious decision to write only original compositions for this CD or were there other factors involved?

NT: I composed some tunes particularly for this CD, but these are the tunes I composed when I lived in Boston. I decided not to record any jazz standards or someone’s when I started this recording project. Because I wanted people to listen to and enjoy my music. I’ll maybe record jazz standards or someone’s in the future, but I’m not so sure now.

JGL: The last tune on your CD, “Union Square Nobels”, is a very intimate and pretty acoustic number played in a trio format of guitar, bass and drums. Why did you add an acoustic tune on the CD and do you plan on any other acoustic type tunes in the future? Maybe a whole album of acoustic music?

NT: I grew up listening to music like folk and country. I simply wanted to pay my respects to their music, particularly James Taylor and Simon & Garfunkel. I probably record one or two acoustic tunes for the next album, but not a whole album of acoustic music.

JGL: Your CD is on a Japanese label. How did you hook up with that label and how are they treating the recording for you in terms of marketing, distribution and air-play? Are you getting any play in the US or Canada?

NT: The recording engineer knew the owner of my label, What’s New Records. I got contact information from him and sent the label my CD. They liked it and I made the contract. They distribute and promote really well in Japan. The reviews featured in several famous jazz magazines in Japan. I also received the review from Just Jazz Guitar magazine in 2007. They actually don’t distribute in the USA and Canada, so I got CDs to sell in the USA and Canada. This CD is now available on CD Baby, iTunes and also at my gigs. Please check my web site at www.nobukitakamen.com for more information.

JGL: You recently played the Rochester Jazz Festival (2007). How did that gig turn out and had you applied to any other festivals?

NT: The festival was just great! We all had good time and people there seemed to be enjoying our music. It was just great experience to play at the festival, so I’m going to apply to other festivals. I’m looking forward to the next time.

JGL: You will soon be embarking on a month long tour of Japan. How did this come about and how difficult is it to work out this kind of tour personally and economically? Will you have any sponsors helping out along the way?

NT: I’m sorry it took me too long time to do this interview, so I finished my Japanese tour and came back from Japan. The tour went so well and we all had a great time there. We had so many great Japanese foods too.

It’s now my annual thing to have a Japanese tour. That’s actually the only time I get to see my family and friends. It was really hard first, but it’s getting better and better every year. And like I mentioned earlier, people start knowing my group and it’s always the best thing for me to see the same faces every year. And internet, email and web site really help make this possible. Without these three, it would take forever to book clubs, book hotels and promote shows. Not too much to say, Japan is seriously on the other side of the earth.

Since I don’t belong to any tour booking agency, I do book all clubs, hotels, arrange schedule and promote shows. Organizing tour is hard work, but I can’t wait hitting the road and playing every night once I finish all the hard works like these. My band members are so cooperative, help me a lot and promote really hard. I really appreciate it. Plus They are, needless to say, great musicians and it’s just fun to be in the car with them during long driving.

I didn’t have the sponsors for the whole tour, but I had sponsors to support my concert in Itsukaichi, Hiroshima where I was born and raised. The tickets were sold out and it’s just the greatest thing for me to play my music with my favorite musicians in front of my family and friends. You can see the video footage from this concert on Youtube.

By the way, only bad thing happened in the tour was the approach of the typhoon to Tokyo area on the day we played in Tokyo. I was really glad there were so many people being able to come in spite of the typhoon and the typhoon luckily had gone by the time we finished the last set.

JGL: The supporting players on Bull’s Blues, Ro Hasegawa on Tenor Sax, Hitoshi Kanda on Piano, Toshiyuki Tanahashi on Bass and Makoto Kikuchi on drums are a remarkable group of well versed and dedicated musicians who really get inside the tunes. How did you hook up with them? Are they based in Japan or the US and do you get the chance to play live with them often?

NT: I first met Ro at a jam session, I think it was at a club in the Upper West Side. l was so impressed by his tone and time. He has this unique time feeling and I’ve never played with someone has that time feeling. It’s like flow. Since he moved back to Japan a while ago, I don’t get the chance to play with him in the USA. He now lives in Kyoto, but we unfortunately couldn’t meet him when we played in Kyoto in October. I’m really looking forward to playing with him in the near future.

I’ve known Hitoshi and Toshiyuki from Boston. Hitoshi started studying at Berklee one semester after I did and we lived in the same dorm. There were practice rooms in the basement and was one room had an upright piano. We’d jam a lot. I still remember the first time I played duo with Hitoshi. That must have been musically awful but personally lots of fun. We’d also jam weekly with great rhythm section. This rhythm section was the one when I had my first Japanese tour in 2004. I play with Hitoshi often and he’s also my billiard mate. We usually go playing pool when we both don’t have gig.

Toshiyuki came to Boston maybe two years after I did. He had already started his professional career and established his reputation in Japan. He’d played with Gary Burton from his first semester. He has also performed with great musicians such as Makoto Ozone, Terri Lynn Callington, Michael Brecker, Charlie Haden and Kenny Barron. He’s so melodious both when he plays bass line and when he solos. I still can sing the short melody he played when we first jammed. He’s that melodious! I didn’t get the chance to play with him after the recording in 2005 because he lived in Boston at that time. I now play with him often because he came to live in NYC this year.

I first met Makoto and heard her playing at the Wally’s cafe in Boston when she was hosting Thursday funk night, I think. That was just amazing. She had already moved to New York, so I guess she just came to Boston for that gig. We talked all night long after the gig in my friend’s apartment. I really like her time, sound and especially her approach to new songs. I’m always excited when I play my new tunes with her. She and also Toshiyuki always bring something fresh to my songs. Everyone, of course, plays my songs interestingly and brings something fresh to my songs. I don’t know why, but Makoto and Toshiyuki are so interesting to me.

JGL: Apart from your originals, do you play any standards or other people’s compositions during performances?

NT: I usually play my originals and two or three standards when I play with my group. I like to arrange standards for my group. I like to play standards which I think have different vibe from my originals. I’ve played my band member’s compositions a few times, but it’s been a while.

Besides my own group, I mostly play standards and other people’s compositions. I always try to memorize standards someone called at the gig or other people’s compositions as much as I can. I see so many people reading music while they perform and that’s totally fine. But I just don’t feel comfortable to sight read in front of the audience. To me, it’s like an actor or actress reading script while shooting a film or something. I also think you can communicate with other musicians and audiences better if you don’t have to read and look at only music. You never know who’s listening!

JGL: If you could only pick one individual or group to play with (alive or dead), who would that be and why?

NT: I would like to play with Elvin Jones. I like his sound, time and everything. He is always on my favorite albums like Grant Green’s ‘’Talkin’ About’’, John Coltrane’s ‘’Coltrane’s Sound’’, Joe Henderson’s ‘’In ‘n Out’’ and so on. My favorite Elvin’s albums are ‘’Live at the Lighthouse Vol.1’’ and ‘’Live at the Lighthouse Vol.2’’. I couldn’t find these records in the USA for a long time, but I could finally find these ones in Japan.

JGL: Has your impressions and experiences of being a Jazz Guitar player been what you had expected when you first decided to become a musician?

NT: It’s been more than what I’d expected. I’m really happy with my musical life and I’m enjoying being a musician so much.

JGL: Apart from your upcoming Japanese tour what else are you working on musically? Any new tunes or CD’s in the near future?

NT: I’m actually planning to record and release my second album from the same label as my first one, What’s New Records in 2008. I’m pretty sure my second album is going to be also available in the USA and Canada. I’d already composed four tunes and composed two more tunes before the tour. We played them almost every night and it was like playing and arranging them at the same time. I thought it was just great for me to be able to play them every night before the actual recording. I actually did the same thing before I recorded my first album. I had a tour in 2004 and recorded in the beginning of 2005. This turned out be a great process. I’m really looking forward to the recording session, but I have to compose a few more before that.

Besides my second album, I’ve just started writing a music theory book for a publisher. I’ve never done writing book before, so I’m sure it will take long time and this is a big challenge now.

JGL: How would you like to see your life unfold in the coming years and what do you think would be needed to get you there?

NT: I’d like to have kids someday and would like to do the same things for them as my parents did for me. Though I have to get married first, all I can do now is doing my best, working hard and staying healthy. That’s all I can think of now.

JGL: Where would you like to see jazz guitar be in the coming years?

NT: I think there are lots of great players here and there. The interesting thing is that nowadays we’re all coming from various musical backgrounds. For instance, one might have grown up listening to Duke Ellington and the other might have grown up listening to Metallica. This guitar duo must sound different from one in 60’s. I can sometime hear the influence through their music and I think that’s really great and interesting. Learn a lesson from the past, I think this is a great way to create new music.

If I could say something to jazz fans, I’d like more people to have an open ear for the guitarists whose name are not on famous magazines. Your local newspaper is the best source, seeing is believing.

JGL: Any advice for the younger guy or gal who is thinking about playing jazz guitar?

NT: Listen to as many records as you can (or go to concerts), learn as many songs from recordings (not from books) and enjoy playing!

JGL: Have you ever had second thoughts about your choice to have music as a career and if so, what other career path do you think you would have followed had you not been a guitar player.

NT: I would probably be a pool player.

JGL: Apart from music, what else do you like to do for fun?

NT: I’m a big fun of billiards. I actually composed a few song inspired by billiards.

JGL: Thank you Nobuki for participating on Jazz Guitar Life. It is most appreciated and I wish you great success in your career and life.

NT: Thank you, Lyle!

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