Music Review: Norihiro Kikuta – Oporo

Music Review: Norihiro Kikuta – Oporo 

As the first note of Into The Tunnel swells into existence, Norihiro Kikuta welcomes us into the musical world of his second album Oporo. Consisting of 14 compositions, these miniatures range from 5 seconds to 4 minutes and 16 seconds each. Together, they present an impressionistic journey that reminds me both the haiku sensibilities in Japanese culture as well as the brief attention span of the Instagram era. Sparse steel string guitar melodic lines walk across the sonic backdrop of the swells in the first track.

Grand Central opens with strong acoustic guitar harmonics and ends with a low register chord.

Waltz introduces the first glimpse of a groove element in this record. This track has fun with the playful rhythms and electric guitar leads with some octaves hinting on his jazz influence. Towards the end of the piece, the harmonies develop along with the feedback in the delays before disappearing.

Tuesday, a short piece goes into Instagram guitar territory with J Dilla styled beats, a reflection of the current guitar generation’s fascination (including me actually) with these kind of sounds, looping and grooving.

Hudson River consists of some watery arpeggios before ending. J-M-Z is a mood in 21 seconds.

For How Many Days of Summer, the repeated arpeggios provides a structure for the sneaky textures.

Prospect Park has a glimpse of Pat Metheny’s acoustic work circa One Quiet Night. Birds sounds like the title, playful. Itsukara is one of my favorite tracks from the album with a feeling of longing within the harmonies. Gelato! captures the experience well. Coney Island is a quick document of the experience going to Coney Island I imagine. For Hancock Street, Norihiro plays chords spaced out evoking space and peacefulness. Later on, he grazes on some crunchy chords giving a bit more of a bite. The closing piece, Akarui Mado introduces some piano playing a reflective chord progression almost bordering on New Age but ends quickly, sudden.

This Haiku like collection of pieces to me is a reflection of Norihiro’s Japanese background coupled with the American experience. Definitely not easily placed in a particular genre, he brings in a variety of influences to capture his experiences over the years. For the video gaming, Instagram posting, YouTube generation – this is music of the times. Snippets of experience and emotion, private and deep, public yet introspective.

For those interested in a musical experience that is deeper than it initially seems, I would strongly recommend checking out Oporo. This is a musical diary of a creative musician who is on his journey to create great things in the future. Catch him now and join him as he develops his musical craft.

Rating: 4/5

Get the album here:

[About Norihiro Kikuta]

Norihiro Kikuta is a Japanese guitarist and composer. Norihiro has been developing a reputation as one of the most promising guitarists in New York City, incorporating jazz, funk, and classical music elements to create his signature sound.

Inspired by Chicago blues music at an early age, he began performing professionally at 18 years old. After cutting his teeth on gigs throughout Tokyo, he attended Berklee College of Music in Boston MA, where he honed his guitar playing and production skills from 2005 – 2008. While there, he collaborated with influential professors and highly acclaimed musicians such as David Fiuczynski, Matt Jenson, Jim Kerry, Dennis Montgomery, Winston Maccow, and Mick Goodrick. He also earned an achievement-based scholarship, helping him to complete his education. He graduated with honors, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Professional Music in 2008.

He eventually relocated to New York City, where his musical career has progressed both as a leader and a sideman, touring and recording throughout the USA, Canada, and Japan. He has worked with legendary New Orleans band The Wild Magnolias, Russell Batiste (of The Funky Meters), Hey Exit (of Of Plants), The Frightnrs (Daptone Records), Matt Jenson’s Liquid Revolution, Erin Barra (Ableton), Jeanine Truly, and internationally acclaimed producer, Rozhan Razman (Riro Musik), among others.

As a private guitar instructor, Norihiro has worked with Soul Arrow Music, Inc. in Tokyo and Amadeus School of Music in New York City. He teaches beginning-to-intermediate guitarists, specializing in an accessible approach to jazz theory and chord structure.

Norihiro released his critically acclaimed EP, Vegetable Soup, in 2012. The album features Josh Antonucci (vocal), Ayumi Ueda (crystal bowl), Brendan Landis (beats), and Adam Tressler (guitar). The music has been described as “fresh and diverse … lyrical and rhythmic,” mixing acoustic ensemble writing with electronic music, pop, and jazz influences.

Currently, he works with Norihiro Kikuta Trio, featuring bassist Daniel Ori and drummer Jeff Fajardo, in major jazz clubs throughout New York City.

[Submissions for Review Consideration]

  • Have you released an EP or album of music (within the genres of jazz, instrumental guitar and/or fingerstyle guitar)?
  • Would you like me to review your EP/album?

Please send me a message at azsamad2 at with:

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Depending on whether I dig the music, I’ll let you know if I do plan to review it!

I CANNOT guarantee a review for every submission & if I’m not too into it, I may opt not to review it. I mean, it’s better to get a good review that for me to write a bad review just because it’s not a match for the kind of stuff I dig right? :p

NOTE: All reviews reflect my honest personal opinion so be aware that I will point out both cool Pros and Cons that I see in the work. You dig? 🙂

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