Blues Walking Japan
Updated: Dec 2, 2019
We finally got around to making a blog about one of my promotion tours to Japan.
Japans has a well developed Western music culture.
Japanese musicians are very familiar with Jazz, Blues and Country music.
After the second world war, the United States implemented the Marshall Plan.
Not did it only benefit the country economically, but it also opened its people to Western culture.
Many American companies charged with building up Japan's infrastructure also brought their music influences. That coupled with American Arm Forces personnel, that brought their record collections, and started radio stations that played the popular American music of the time. Jazz, European Classical and later Rock'n Roll and Blues became more popular In Japan. If you want to know more about how Jazz in Japan here is a link to a very good article on the subject.
Rooster North Side with Chiharu harp player and our agent.
My experience playing the Blues in Japan
One thing I can say about playing blues in Japan is the that musicians are highly skilled and know the background of the music.
On many of the shows, we had the great honor to play with Master Mori San on both National Steel and electric guitar. It was so easy to play with the band. They just knew the aesthetic nuances of the music instinctively. I was surprised at how well the musicians I met could play many different styles of blues.
Blue Heat Tokyo
With Mr. Samm Bennett on drums but the young bass player Shinnosuke Uematsu. Samm also sings, writes and plays several Instruments. He's been living in Japan for many years. We played a few different venues on the tour but this one had the best video recording equipment.
Then it was off to Osaka
Chiharu and I traveled on the ultra-modern high-speed train to Osaka.
They sell box-lunches with an assortment of dishes.
as you can see I was enjoying it.
One of the best shows we did was Chicago Rock.
The place is small with a lot of character and the audience really comes there to hear the blues because they love it.
As you can see I took a walk and had a lot of fun!
The band was spectacular, I could call any style of music and they could play all of them perfectly, including inspired solos from all the band members.
When I showed up to the first rehearsal with this band, They had all written out their parts from two of my albums, I was shocked! No pickup band had ever put in so much work and love into doing just a few shows for me before. The mistake I made is I should have asked them for copies of the sheet music!
Spirits are high that night sand some friends of ours jumped in, okay maybe I pushed a little.
Me with Shiyoyama San the owner of Chicago Rock
Bright Brown in Tokyo
Bright Brown is in the middle of the city on a busy walking street.
Another fantastic band that really knows and love blues music.
Sue (guitar), Yoshimi Hirata (bass), Lee (piano), and Chicage Ishii (drums)
On the far right is Master Sue, playing T Bone Walker style guitar.
Miss Lee the piano player is one of the best blues piano players i've had the pleasure to work with. This band really had I nice swing!
Bright Brown is the club I feel like is my home club in Japan. Maybe it's because it was the first club I played in Japan? It's a fairly big room, good sound, and always has a crowd of blues lovers.
Tokyo has many blues clubs and you can find a jam session almost every night of the week.
What I found different is most of them charge the musicians to jam. You pay a fee then you can get one or two drinks and a discount on dinner. Some of them are free but most of the musicians have other jobs and only play for the love of the music. I was asked to lead a jam session at a club called the Pink Cow.
Everyone working at the Pink Cow is American and plays music. it's a good place if you want to meet up with some more ex-pats and have some familiar food. I Recommend The burrito, but watch out for the bartender singer guy, he ate mine!
The Owner of the Pink Cow is Traci Consoli from California.
I must say there are few cities that I have visited with so much love of blues and jazz music. Also where there are so many clubs to play. With that said it's hard to get a good Audience during the weekdays. Most Japanese people work long hours during the week.
The next problem is transportation. Even though there is a very advanced Metro and train system If you're not used to it It can be very difficult to maneuver. If you're brave enough to try you will always get help. There are transportation guards at every station and the Japanese people are very willing to help especially the young ones, even with the language barrier.
The language Is a problem if you don't speak Japanese, but we find that most musicians speak English very well. Taking taxies is pretty expensive about the same level as Stockholm! A lot of trains stop running between 23:00-24:00. If you miss the train you can go to one of the many Karaoke clubs that stay open all night or to what's called a Love Hotel and get a room for around $20 until the train starts up again around 5:30.
So basically, You really love to play the blues Japan is one of the best places to do that outside of the US. or the UK.
Some more photos