Jeremy Steig Monthly Blog 2015
Last week, my wife and I were watching on a NHK broadcast satellite channel
an extremely engrossing documentary about what America is doing to whistle
blowers. It's called Silenced (2014). It was about three very intelligent and patriotic people who worked
for the CIA, NSA and U.S. Justice Department respectively. One whistle
blower revealed and spoke out against U.S. military's water-boarding. The
NSA whistle blower, on the other hand, blew the whistle on NSA surveillance
practices on American citizens before Edward Snowden. In the middle of
watching, at about 9:35 p.m., a phone call interrupted us. My wife answered
and it was the Yomiuri Shimbun's political pollster. A live woman, not a machine. The poll was basically
about prime minister Abe's various policies. The woman's job was to give
multiple choice questions. For example, "Should a reduced sales tax
rate be applied to: 1) only the perishables; 2) both perishables and processed
foods?" My wife answered, "Who in the world wants any tax on
the food we eat anyway?" The pollster woman answered, "So, it's
more like choice 2 then." My wife said, "Is it?" Then the
woman said, "I'll put your answer down as #2."
The results of the poll were printed on December 6. Sixty-one percent of the respondents chose #2, which was much higher than the 21% that answered #1. The paper said that 55% was in favor of applying reduced rates to items outside foods, while 33% was against. Fifty-eight percent was for the introduction of reduced rates, while 31% was against the idea. My wife was never asked these last two questions.
This was the first time she was bestowed the honor of being a randomly chosen respondent. We had known by watching public opinion poll results on TV that there had to be a certain amount of bull shit in the way the questions are conceived, but my wife's experience proves that these polls can be quite deceptive.
We went back to watching Silenced, and found that America's mainstream media bashed the three whistle blowers, making them look like criminals. One of them was sent to prison.
In the last 5 years, about ten people from different parts of the world contacted me with questions about mostly dead musicians with whom I used to play decades ago. Most of them said that they were writing biographies about those musicians. Some of these people turned out to be professors or editors of magazines. What strikes me is that they either have a very low level of investigative skills or are too busy sending a query from their i-phones to check out my website before contacting me. One of them said to me after I answered his questions, "What instrument do you play? Guitar?" I kindly sent back to him a link to my website and told him to find out himself.
These would-be authors come to me because they have some information, probably from unreliable online sources, that needs to be verified. They usually don't explain who they are in detail, reasons why they are bothering me with their questions, or if I'll get a copy of the book if it's ever published. They certainly have no intention of paying me for taking time to answer their meaningless questions. I can't help but feel sorry for the people who pay to buy their books. I'm sure they are not getting their money's worth.
We all have to watch out for inaccurate information that looks like the truth. The world is full of it.
In a 2011 blog, I talked about the 1992 comedy, "The Distinguished
Gentleman" (with Eddie Murphy). In it, he is running for President
of the U.S. The main joke in the film was that he was for "change".
He never said "change what". Later, as we know, Obama became
President using the same joke. He also didn't say change what. Now I've
just seen "Machete Kills" on TV. In it, Charlie Sheen plays the
President. He had been elected by promising and completing a giant wall
at the Mexican border to keep illegal immigrants out. Sound familiar? Is
it possible that presidential candidates are so unimaginative that they
have to get their ideas from silly movies? I think so.
I'm playing at Body & Soul in Tokyo on December 28. Hope to see you then. For reservations, click here.
I love living in Japan and I have very few complaints in my daily life,
but here is one. Almost every bicycle has a little bell on it and no one
ever uses them. The bicycles are usually ridden on the sidewalk here in
Japan and I never know when one will come up behind me. Use the bell!!
Since the launch of this renewed website, some of the old links have been closed. Please revisit your favorite pages at their new URLs to renew your links. Sorry for the trouble.
Welcome to my new website!
Please enjoy our latest work, OUR WONDERFUL WORLD.
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.