It wasn’t until tenor saxophonist, flutist and clarinetist Takao Iwaki was 19 that he took his first private lesson. Late, by American standards for studying individually, Iwaki was eventually accepted by the Berklee College of Music where he studied with famed musician George Garzone and was a member of Phil Wilson’s Rainbow Big Band. With a Bachelor’s degree in Jazz Composition in hand Iwaki worked mainly for the Caribbean Cruise line for the first three years following graduation. In 2008 he moved to New York in pursuit of a solo career, working in various clubs. Currently working on Monarch of the Seas Royal Caribbean Cruises, Iwaki also teaches privately when his busy schedule allows.
Recorded at the end of 2009, Introducing is Iwaki’s debut. Here he is joined by 2003 Asakusa Jazz Competition Grand-Prix winner in the Piano Department Tadataka “Tada” Unno, late of the Heath Brothers bassist David Wong, and drummer Quincy Davis who has worked with Benny Green, Regina Carter and Tom Harrell. The quartet work their way through nine Iwaki originals and a cover of the Jimmy Van Heusen standard “Swinging On A Star.”
Playing only tenor saxophone on this recording, Iwaki has a tone reminiscent of Dexter Gordon. Unno is the standout performer in the backing band. His solos are rich in chromatic alterations and he has a knack for finding the notes between the cracks, thus being able to bring out a uniquely rich harmonic palette in his solos that is best heard on the ballad “Twilight.” Davis’ set work is top notch and Wong is a rhythmic rock.
Iwaki is an able soloist who brings a solid rhythmic feel and a firm knowledge of jazz’s appropriate scales to the date. His solos grow logically from each tune’s melody, and his phrases flow from line to line, idea to idea, in a well-sidled manner.
If there is a problem with this recording it’s the overall sound recording quality is on the dry side. This hurts because even on the tunes that are charmingly written, such as the delightful swinger “Gaslight” and the forward-looking “Iwakistan,” there is no richness or depth to the sound. Like many of the first recordings by young musicians, this CD is a bit on the formulaic side with specific types of pieces strategically placed on the disc. As Iwaki continues to grow he may be one to watch.