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Naoki's "6 Albums That Changed Me"

Updated: Aug 3, 2020

Casino Drive: Fever Visions

This was my first experience of listening to glam and psychedelic rock. Casino Drive was formed by musicians from various countries such as Japan, the US, the UK and France. They had their debut in LA led by my first guitar hero and friend Takehiko ”shake” Kogure in '92. Shake’s gaudy guitar sound and Rei Atsumi’s bestial hammond organ and mellotron sounds instantly transported me to another world.

Miles Davis: In a Silent Way

This album features only two long jam tracks. This album opened the door to Miles' electric period, and other classic albums such as the controversial ”Bitches Brew”.

It is very inspirational when you listen closely to the improvisations of Miles and to those of the other musicians on this recording. Every time I listen to this album, I still can find something new, even though I have been listening to it for more than a quarter of a century. I especially like listening to this at midnight or just before dawn.

Bill Evans: Alone

When I was a student at music college, my music theory teacher played “Midnight Mood” from this album in order to teach chord voicings and song analysis. I fell in love with the song right away. The very next day, I went to Tower Records on Sunset Boulevard and got it.

Although this is a piano solo album, Evans’ phrasings, chord voicings and rhythmic ideas can be applied to your guitar playing.

Norman Brown: Celebration

This album sounds totally Californian to me. When I was in LA, several songs from this album played frequently on a smooth jazz radio station called “94.7 The WAVE”.

I was really into Norman Brown's beautiful tone, sophisticated phrasing, great compositions and his fabulous personality as my friend’s father. I also like the fact that he covered The Stylistics’ hit “You Make Me Feel Brand New” with his sweet voice on the album. It always makes me emotional somehow.

Listening to this album always reminds me of when I was driving on the Pacific Coast Highway from Santa Monica to Malibu.

Michael Franks: Blue Pacific

I really love Michael Franks' compositions and philosophical lyrics. It’s not even guitar music, but you can hear some great guitar playing in the ensemble by my favorite guitarists Larry Carlton, Paul Jackson Jr. and more.

Also, many legendary musicians participated in this recording such as Vinnie Colaiuta (drums), John Patitucci (bass), Joe Sample (piano), Marc Russo (alto sax), Bob Sheppard (tenor sax), etc.

Kenny Burrell: Moon And Sand

The album includes one of my most favorite jazz standards “Upper Manhattan Medical Group” composed by Billy Strayhorn.

When I was a student, my jazz professor and mentor Carl Schroeder (a pianist who mainly played with Sarah Vaughan) personally gave me the assignment to figure out the song and improvise over the changes. I actually loved the melody and chord progression before I had figured out what was going on. Of course, I like Strayhorn’s original version, too.

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