Two weeks before Sept. 11, Nobuki Takamen boarded a plane for the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Eight years later, the Hiroshima native is still working on his jazz chops (and his English) with the release of his second CD, From Now On.
The CD combines poignant melodies with fast-paced jazz instrumentals, and has received critical acclaim in Jazz Life Magazine and Jazz Critique. With prodigious technique to spare, the album features some of the best musicians the area has to offer, like Jersey City saxophonist Bryan Beninghove. From Now On is a breakout record jazz fans can’t afford to miss.
For more information on Takamen, please visit: www.nobukitakamen.com.
Birthplace: Hiroshima, Japan.
Guitar: Gibson E-335
Who are you biggest influences?
“I love James Taylor. I grew up playing rock music so I love playing with a band. [The jazz guitarist] Pat Martino I really like, too. Martino even composed a song for James Taylor called, ‘James,’ which is one of my favorites.”
After graduating from Berklee, how did you end up living in Jersey City?
“I visited my college roommate here and thought I would come and live here for a year or two to check out the music scene. I’ve been here five years now. It’s close to Manhattan and really relaxed – there’s not as much going on. Here, I can see Manhattan from a whole different point of view.”
Learning English as a second language can be hard. Have you been reading any good books lately?
“I’ve been reading a book by Brian Morton called ‘Starting Out in the Evening,’ and it’s about a group of people living in Manhattan. There’s even a scene in the book set in Hoboken, so it’s easy for me to imagine what’s happening even if I can’t understand the words. I always have to keep my dictionary by my side.”
What do you do in your spare time?
“Learning a second language has been like a hobby for me since I came here. Studying English is something I real enjoy doing, and helps me in everyday life. But, when I was 20 or 21, I worked in a billiard hall in Japan. [Playing pool] was one of my favorite things to do. I practiced a lot, so I’m pretty decent. I’m still trying to improve.”
You’re getting married in May. What are you looking forward to?
“Well, we’re having the wedding in Kyoto, which is halfway between my home in Hiroshima and my wife’s home in Tokyo. I’ve never been married before, so I don’t really know what to expect, but I’m really excited. We’re going to have a small wedding, with family and a few friends.”
What’s next for Nobuki Takamen?
“I’ve been playing at the Greenwich Village Bistro regularly, about once a month. But, I’m really looking forward to a show at the Iridium Jazz Club. [Famous guitar maker] Les Paul plays there every Monday, so it’s a really well-known place. I’m really glad to be able to play there.”