June - December 2011
I went to the Kotato-Fukushima flute factory last week to see their amazing flutes. (See photos.)
They are made beautifully and are ideal for jazz. this is indeed a special place in Japan. Photo--Mr. Kotato plays his big flutes
December is for JAMMY. As a kid, my nickname was Jemmy. For a while some crappy friends made fun of my name and called me "Jammy." While walking in Yokohama, this memory came back to me and a light bulb lit up in my head. Our new digital picture book JAMMY is about a boy who's always looking to play with the sounds he hears. In other words, he wants to jam. This is the first jazz story in our series, but I think you'll also like the three other stories, so we are making a Christmas discount for all four.
December also brought many ducks to O-oka River.
I'd like to write about the TPP deal from the perspective of an American living in Japan. Hey, guys, don't do it! I came here partly because of the great food grown in Japan. I've never felt so healthy. I was getting sick in New York from all the unhealthy food. We had to shop in a dozen different places to survive. The fruit is always rotten. The milk has pus in it. Genetic food is poison and don't you dare eat any processed food!! Japan will be swamped with cheap food and the farmers will go out of business. Then, when you can't feed yourselves the prices will go way up. I'm an American. That's the way we do things there.
On the lighter side, a few days ago, I broke the chop sticks that I was using. They were a wedding gift from a friend almost nine years ago. I shaved their ends and now they are terrific dipping pens.
I like to end my day by watching an English language movie on Japanese cable. A few nights ago I was treated to The Distinguished Gentleman with Eddie Murphy. He plays a black con man who gets elected to Congress because he has the same name as another congressman who just died of a heart attack. He gets elected on "name recognition". In his acceptance speech, he is asked what his platform was because no one has ever seen him or heard him speak. He says that he was running on "change". My mouth fell open, and I turned to my wife and saw that her mouth was also hanging open in disbelief. That, of course, was a joke and I'm sure that everyone in the movie theater burst out laughing when it first came out in 1992.
There is a large protest going on in New York against the criminal bankers of Wall St. Japanese TV news reported it before CNN did. I obtained much more information on the Internet. For example, I saw a YouTube clip of some girls getting pepper sprayed by the police outside of Japonica, a Japanese restaurant which we used to walk to for dinner. Then the news of Wall St. disappeared when Steve Jobs died. I saw people crying, mourning, dropping flowers off in front of the Apple stores in both and New York and Tokyo. He is being compared to Edison, da Vinci, and Henry Ford. He was a good businessman and had some creative ideas that were implemented by a lot of talented people. I can understand Henry Ford, but Edison or da Vinci? After all, Ford turned out to be one of the major contributors to global warming. I would wait for another 20 years, at least, to say anything about Jobs.
Here are some photos of my neighborhood creatures.
I'm happy to be away from the 9.11 malaise in New York. This has been a hot summer, but there is no place I'd rather be. There is something about Japan that makes me want to play my flutes and draw pictures.
My wife and I are working on our 4th digital picture book. It's about a flute playing boy who can't help but improvise with all the sounds he hears. If someone like that lived in America in the 21st century, they'd probably be pumping him with Ritalin, but this is a positive story and he somehow falls under the radar.
I watch CNN and am reminded why I left America. I had to hear over a hundred times that Japan has had five prime ministers in six years. In other words, what a screwed up country this is, but when I think about it that's a lot better than being stuck with the same idiot for eight years only to be replaced by a different version of the same thing. Martin Luther King said it wasn't the color of your skin but the content of your character (that people should be judged by).So far, the only difference between the two idiots has been the color of the skin. I also read The Japan Times. There are many stories by Americans living in Japan who complain about being here. They can't make friends and blame it on the difference between cultures. To me, many things in Japan make more sense than where I came from. Taking your shoes off before entering the home is logic, not culture. Bowing is much more respectful, not to mention hygienic, than shaking hands. Chopsticks make the food taste better. I never liked the feeling of metal in my mouth. Many foreigners make fun of Japanese people behaving too orderly, but who wants to be bumped into in the street? If you do go to NY. To me, Japanese people behave very logically. Bathing in the bathroom and having a separate toilet is also logical. I saw an American TV show, in which they tested toothbrushes kept in American bathrooms and found feces on them.
September also means that I'm going to be 69. When I hit 70 I can probably join the old guys' jazz circuit and will be given gigs. Ha-ha. I will also get a subway discount. In the meantime, I recommend that you check out our digital picture books. It's a great way to introduce jazz to children. Since we are all children at heart it'll be good for you, too.
I'm a jazz musician and jazz is international. Jazz learns from all music. It's not about combining different forms of music. It's about learning from everything you hear and making it swing through improvisation. Countries have to be more like jazz and learn from each other. On CNN, I hear many Americans including the President say that "the American way is the best way" and that it is the greatest country in the world. Thinking that your way is the best way ensures that it will never be. Those who say, "I know," don't.
Last week, my wife and I were invited to attend a jazz festival celebrating the 50th anniversary of "Waltz for Debbie," a tribute to Bill Evans. I wanted to hear some new players and when the Makoto Ozone Big Band played I wasn't disappointed. Makoto-san's writing and playing were very exciting and even though I had to sit through many hours of mostly tense female pianists and some incredibly bad singing, his music was well worth waiting for. I've played a few memorials for Bill myself, but I personally think that the best way to celebrate him is to listen to his LPs. I will say this. Bill taught me a lot about music without even talking about it.
I like to take walks by the Oo-oka River. There are lots of large carp and gray mullets, turtles that my wife says that don't belong there, ducks and a few herons. Yesterday, I saw a ray. I've noticed that the pigeons sing different tunes in the morning and in the afternoon. I don't steal from other musicians, but I must admit that I steal from nature.
August 13 was Frac's 5th anniversary. Frac was my cat. Every summer, my wife and I remember him. I love cats. Recently, we had a chance to have a drink with a couple of good friends. They told me about Kuniyoshi, a ukiyo-e artist who drew cats in many of his works. In our digital picture book Nose Coloring Girl. I drew an orange cat. My friends said that you just have to live with a cat to discover certain things that are unique to cats so that you'll be able to draw them from memory.They were right. Whenever I draw a cat I think of Frac.
Hi, folks. Welcome to my new website coming to you from Yokohama, Japan,
where I plan to live for the rest of my life. Yokohama is a great place
for walking. That's my exercise. Walking to Sakuragicho or Yokohama Station.
I love Japan--the people, the food, the clean subways and streets. I live
in a very quiet neighborhood, which is wonderful for a musician. Just about
every house has flowers outside. I see lots of happy children everywhere.
In New York, where I come from, children are hidden away or strapped in
strollers. (See Don't Strap Me Down.) My wife and I are working on slide shows for people of all ages. I'm
writing and performing the soundtracks and illustrating. We also build
miniature structures, take photos and write stories. I'm very excited about
what we are doing.
I didn't miss the earthquake in March. We experienced a small one on March 9th and decided jokingly that the next time we would meet under the dining table. Two days later, we were under the table. The apartment shook violently and the paintings on the wall danced. Our TV crashed to the floor, but thanks to Japanese technology it didn't break. So we saw everything that followed live. Then I realized that those (Sendai, Iwaki, Iwate and Aomori) were places where I had played on tour. Anyone who might have met me or heard me play, please contact me at this website and let me know how you are doing.
After the earthquake, I started to get e-mails from the U.S. urging me to come back and save myself. I wrote that they had enough atomic plants of their own to worry about and sent photos of the beautiful cherry blossoms near my house.
A week later, my mother-in-law, my wife and I went to Hiroshima--the first city that experienced the nuclear insanity. I had played there before but never saw the outside of the club, which was in a hotel. This time, my family took me to the Peace Memorial Museum. There was a replica of the city and my mother-in-law pointed out where her home had been bombed.
My Japanese cousin drove us to Onomichi, a beautiful place with a fabulous view of the Inland Sea. I found a cute little store and bought some excellent Japanese bamboo pens. I draw with bamboo pens. Shaving the points gives me my own line. In New York, the pens I bought came from Southeast Asia, but here, quality pens made in Japan are available. In this digital age, I think that it's important to seek out organic methods of making art and music.
I've just heard from Angus Batey, a UK-based journalist. His article about sampling and copyright has been published on the GUARDIAN. The article includes his interview with me. Check it out!