Kotaro Oshio

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Japanese guitarist Kotaro Oshio occupies that rarefied space where the spontaneity of jazz and the transcendent properties New Age converge. Oshio plays strong melodies using open tunings to create lovely harmonics, and artful tapping to convey urgency and passion. On this 2002 release, Oshio plays with no accompaniment, but the moods and textures are varied enough to carry the whole album. "Komorebi," a shimmering, cinematic affair, benefits from tasteful reverb and a real sweetness. "Blue Sky" is a breezy acoustic number recalling Pat Metheny's more upbeat moments. The jaunty "Third Man Theme" is a surprising choice for a cover, but Oshio injects new life into the easy-listening staple, using vibrato to imitate the original's zither. The album ends on a stirring note with "Hard Rain," a Hendrix-like, riff-heavy song that allows Oshio to show off his aggressive right hand technique. He slaps the guitar body, scrapes the strings, and leaves the listener wondering what style of music this gifted guitarist can't make his own.

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