Hironobu Saito: The Remaining 2% (2004)
The recording's style is straight-ahead yet yields a few fresh ideas in the post bop and contemporary arena. All seven compositions are Saito creations and cover various colors, including heavy bebop, cool ballads, and modern lyricism. His tone is even and full and his chops hint of an early George Benson with smoothness, agility, and control.
His seminal bandmates are also impressive, with a potent rhythm section and stellar musicianship. Particular interest goes to pianist Milton Fletcher and saxophonist Walter Smith who provide outstanding lead voices along with the guitarist.
Saito's writing talent is distinguished and draws the listener in with melody on the silky piece "The Unconscious" with its smooth tempo. On the aggressive opening number Saito uses slight delay and volume effects to provide a layered sound. He also slows it down on the dreamy "Memory," adding a lovely solo that is filled with fluency and maturity.
Other bright spots include the ballad "Moonlight Waltz," which contains a memorable vamp, and the swinging groove "A Toon 4 the 121 Crew," which features a tempestuous horn solo by guest trumpeter Darren Barrett.
Saito's academics and performing skills are evident on The Remaining 2% and it's time for the young artist to shine, which he clearly does with this solid debut.
Track Listing: 1. The Remaining 2% 2. Moonlight Waltz 3. The Unconscious 4. Memory 5. Afternoon in Arles 6. A Toon 4 the 121 Crew 7. Indiana Blue
Personnel: Hironobu Saito (guitar), Darren Barrett (trumpet on #6), Walter Smith (tenor sax #1-4,7), Milton Fletcher (piano), Yasushi Nakamura (bass), John Lamkin (drums)
Record Label: Fresh Sound New Talent