January 2014 - August 2015
We've uploaded our latest "Japan Jazz Travelogue" videos from the trip we made in May to Okayama and Shikoku's Takamatsu.
I'll be performing at BODY & SOUL in Tokyo with Mayuko Katakura Trio next month on August 19. The band has been getting more and more exciting as we get to know each other.
This time I'll be playing three different flutes plus my piccolo.
Hope you can make it.
Photos from the gig (Click and scroll down to the bottom of the page)
You are what you eat... If you are wondering what I'm going to play here are some of my latest dinners at home. Nope, I didn't cook them.
One nice thing about playing gigs in Tokyo is that people bring me CDs and LPs to sign. Some are so old I've almost forgotten doing them. Japan is the only country where CDs (80%) outsell streaming (20%), but that may change soon.
This is from The International New York Times: "Music Service to Break CDs Hold on Japan". A new service called LINE MUSIC just opened in Japan. It will give you 1.5 million tracks for about 500 yen ($4) a month. They expect their catalog to grow to 30 million songs by next year. Are you excited? I'm not. If you know yourself it's obvious you don't have 1.5 million favorite songs or have time to listen to that many tunes in your life time. Plus the fidelity of the sound sucks on these services. And most importantly, composers and musicians don't get paid.
I joined the musicians' union when I was 16 and since then have considered myself to be in the music business. In other words the music business is when musicians try to make a living making music. Music is making billions of dollars today, but very few musicians are making a living. If you read the newspapers you will see that the word business has been replaced by the word, "industry." Almost all of the music industry-related articles I've recently read are not about music, but about digital distribution of music.
Here is a jazz story. A jazzman makes a record. When it is finished he asks, "When do I get paid?" They answer, "You don't, but now the record will enable you to go out and play gigs." So he gets a gig. When he's finished playing he asks, "When do I get paid?" They answer, "You don't, but now you'll sell more records." The jazzman asks, "How do I eat?" They answer, "Go teach." I first became aware of an international organization comprised of jazz educators about 15 years ago. There already were at least about 7500 jazz educators back then.
We are working on a new digital picture book. It's called "Trilogy". It's actually a continuation of the story "Jammy". He is now a grown up and has to deal with present-day problems. It's a funny story if you have a sense of humor, that is...
On June 24th, I'm playing at BODY & SOUL in Tokyo with Mayuko Katakura
Trio. This time I'm playing the bass flute in F. I've never performed with
this instrument in public because it's so big. BUT Mr. Kotato who invented
the flute made a special stand for me so I could bring it to the club.
Thank you, Mr. Kotato!!
Photos from the gig (Click and scroll down to the bottom of the page)
I took a trip with my family to Okayama Prefecture and Takamatsu in Kagawa Prefecture this month. I saw some terrific Japanese gardens. But on the first night, we didn't get lucky with food. The so-called French restaurant wasn't up to Japanese standard. However, the hotel staff gave us a good piece of information and sent us to an Italian place that gave us nice dishes prepared with local organic vegetables. We were asked if we wanted anything special. Now, every time I 've gone to an Italian restaurant for the past 20 years, I've wanted to get zabaglione for dessert. I used to eat it all the time at a place called Minetta's in Greenwich Village when I was young. But nobody seems to make it any more, I think because it needs to be beaten manually and has to be served fresh. To my surprise, the Japanese chef in Kurashiki granted my request. He studied cooking in Piemonte where zabaglione came from. So I had it for two consecutive nights. Here is a photo of my favorite dessert.
Late last month, a depressed co-pilot crashed a plane into the French Alps killing everyone aboard. He didn't know that my wife and I were working on a new story based on the proliferation of depression. I think if he had waited long enough to see it he would have regained his sense of humor and taken up skate boarding instead. One thing is certain. Depression pills can make you more depressed and many people have killed themselves while on the stuff. The co-pilot apparently had nightmares about his plane crashing and I wonder if his psychiatrist, with the help of depression pills and perhaps hypnosis, taught him how to "breathe normally" while in the descending plane.
Anyway, I'm very excited about our new project. Our last seven stories were for "children of all ages". This one, however, is for adults. We like to read the newspaper to each other after dinner and as you may know almost everything in the news is depressing. One night, after an extremely dark reading, Asako started singing, "Depression, anyone..."like The Little Match Girl. I took her line and put it to music and that was the beginning of our new story. Next month, I'll tell you about ACT II.
Many Japanese flute players come to hear me in Tokyo and ask me if I teach. I don't. I only know what I do. If I were to give a lesson the first thing I would say is "Don't copy." I can only tell you what I do and that's the last thing you should hear. It only works for me.
If you really love, for example, Bird or Coltrane, you would never try to play like them. Study your instrument through classical music and be yourself when you play jazz.
I recently read that Albert Einstein advised a promising mathematician not to go to graduate school because it would ruin him. Study your instrument with a good teacher if you can find one, but study yourself to play jazz. Take a look at yourself. You might not like everything you see, but that's where good jazz lurks.
February began with a traditional ceremony of mamemaki. Japanese people put masks on to play the roles of a demon and a woman with plump cheeks and scatter beans, after which they eat the same number of beans as their age.
The gig in Tokyo took place the night before St. Valentine's Day, and we did some gift exchanges at the club, which you can read about on Body and Soul's website. You can also see some photos from the gig. Enjoy!
Left: Mamemaki, parched bean scattering to drive out evil spirits and summon good luck.
Right: A St. Valentine's gift from an audience member at the gig on Feb. 13. Really cute chocolates! Photos from the gig.
I apologize to the five regular readers of this blog for the delay.
It's already the end of January!!
My first gig of the year is coming up in about two weeks. Hope to see you at BODY & SOUL in Tokyo on Friday, February 13. I will be playing with Tsuyoshi Yamamoto, Hiroshi Kagawa and Hiroshi Murakami.
I'm playing at BODY & SOUL in Tokyo with the MAYUKO KATAKURA TRIO on the 16th.
It's going to be a hot gig and I hope you can make it.
Photo from the gig (Click and scroll down to the bottom of the page)
Here are some new drawings.
We had a really nice trip to Nishi-Izu last month and made a new "Japan Jazz Travelogue" video.
This month, I uploaded some new drawings. Enjoy!
It's already September again. I'm going to be 72 and Coltrane would have
turned 88. Here is a video (Title: Birthday Drawing for our birthday, the 23rd.
The video has a high resolution so that the lines can be shown clearly. It may take time to download.
The photo below was taken on Aug. 6the at BODY & SOUL in Tokyo.
One thing about playing in Japan is that I go to my gig standing up on the train.
The good thing is that I never have to deal with jet lag.
People came from as far as Okinawa to the club, which celebrated its 40th anniversary this year.
It was a very nice experience.
Next month on August 6th (Hiroshima's a-bomb memorial day), I'll be playing at Body & Soul in Tokyo. It will be part of a week celebrating the club's 40th anniversary. It's easy to say "40 years", but it really is nice to be able to play at this favorite club of mine after seeing so many in New York going under. I'll be playing with Tsuyoshi Yamamoto on piano, Hiroshi Murakami on drums and Hiroshi Kagawa on bass. Looking forward to seeing you all! Photos from the gig. (Scroll down and click icons)
I've been all over Japan, but I was on tour, so I saw only night clubs and concert halls. Now that I live here I have time to see Japan for real. Every year we take a trip to experience the beauty of this country.
This year we went to Kyoto. We hit the most popular places first and were swallowed up in crowds of tourists. Then we found some quiet places that were overwhelming.
A few nights ago I was complaining about how soundtracks were ruining TV and the movies. When we tuned in to a movie called Drive (with Ryan Gosling) it had a good story, nice pace, good acting and good visuals. There wasn't much dialogue. It didn't need it. There was only one flaw. You guessed it--the soundtrack. This incredibly crappy soundtrack was running parallel to a pretty good movie. I had to strain to shut it out so I could enjoy the story.
Towards the end of the film the hero became very heroic. A loud song kicked in telling us he was a hero. Aside from the hero and his girl friend there were about five bad guys. Did they really have to reinforce the idea that "HE" was the hero with terrible, out-of-tune singing? This soundtrack had all the elements of today's puzzling soundtracks. Drum machines, bad singing, unoriginal melodies, monotonous harmonies and cheap effects. This is the norm for today's films.
I got to see one method of picking songs for movies when I met the Dreamworks people making "Shrek". They do something they call "needle drops", which is just what it sounds like. They drop the needle on a record and if the song strikes their fancy it's in the movie.
Rap is an easy device for movies because their words reinforces the idea of the movie, just like the hero line in Drive. There is no respect paid to how the viewer wants to feel. Music in the soundtracks used to inspire different emotions, but sound effects have taken over. If they want you to feel tense they do it with a sound effect like the noise of a jet plane. If a movie has a theme song that's it for the songs. You hardly hear two nice melodies in a movie nowadays. You'd have to go back to old Fred Astaire movies to get more than one tune.
I am studying Japanese and it's very tricky stuff. But one thing I can do is to use hashi (chopsticks). I watch everything that I can find in English on TV. I see a lot of scenes where Western actors are using chopsticks and almost everyone is faking it. When I was a kid actors had to sing, tap dance, ride horses, and fence. Now they can't even manipulate two wooden sticks!!
Many Americans in Japan are offended when Japanese people compliment them on their skill at using chopsticks. They think it really means, "You can't speak Japanese." The truth is that they're saying, "Wow! You are a rare American who knows how to use chopsticks correctly." Japanese people have a terrible time learning English (Read Backseat Driver), but Americans don't even want to attempt Japanese. I know because it took my wife three years to get me to begin.
If you want to hear me play live now's your chance. April 5th at Body and Soul in Tokyo. I'll be playing with Tsuyoshi Yamamoto's trio. Yamamoto and I first played together at Body and Soul in 1986. It was my first trip to Japan. I'm excited to play with him again. Photos from the gig (Scroll down and click on icons)
I have become a Pussy Riot fan. I recently saw a TV documentary about them and was inspired by their honesty. Their direct approach to the use of lyrics went far beyond famous American activists/singers. Unfortunately, these ladies are not musicians, but then again, most music today isn't performed by musicians.
For the past month, I've been watching winter sports competitions on TV, mostly ice-skating and ski jumps. There must have been at least of three hours of ski jumps every day. Now we are supposed to get excited about the winter Olympics in Russia, which will have all the same athletes.
Olympics ruin countries. People are evicted to make room for stadiums that are only good for two weeks. When they are over, all the prices that have been raised for the event stay high. You only have to look at what happened to Greece to see the folly in the Olympic "GAMES". Now Japan is making the same mistake. Let's hope there will be no earthquake when the stadiums are full.
Great news! Jazz school is no longer necessary. Just grab your ax and move to Colorado. You can learn the same way the old jazz masters did, and it's legal.
A happy new year, America! Here are some new drawings.
Sixteen years ago, while on tour in Japan, I found myself in a department store buying a pen. They had to send for an interpreter and that's how I met my wife, Asako. Asako approached English like a real jazz musician. She knew that school wasn't enough and figured things out for herself. Loving movies, she would stay for three showings and listened hard to the sound of English when she was in junior high. That's what you need to play jazz--Listen hard. It's all ear training.
The Japanese government is pushing English language learning because of the Olympics, which is seven years away. We read about it almost every day in The Japan Times.
But most of the time, only the points of view of the educators and experts are featured, so Asako decided to express her views about it. Starting this month, I'm adding Asako's blog, "BACKSEAT DRIVER" on English education in Japan.
I am now studying Japanese with her every morning, so we are all together on this. Many people who visit this website are Japanese. Japanese jazz fans will find her blog very interesting. Her English is many ways better than mine. She even corrects my spelling. Enjoy!