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After my Japan tour (3 of 3) 日本ツアーを終えて(その3) 

(continued) (前回からの続き) 

In my recent Japan tour, I performed at 6 venues in one week. One of the venue owners mentioned to me that it was good to see the main player of the tour (me) arrived safely in Japan despite the typhoon. 



Over the past few decades, I have solidified my guitar style, one that is not commonly seen nowadays even in Chicago – that is the traditional Westside Chicago Blues that was originally developed by the guitar greats such as Otis Rush, Magic Sam, and Buddy Guy in the 1960s. 



When I play in a trio setting, as I did throughout the tour this time, what I have in my mind as a sound image is the gut wrenching performance by Magic Sam Trio recorded at the Ann Arbor Blues Festival in 1969. A band does not need to be loud in order to be intense. 

今回のツアーのように、ギター、ベース、ドラムのトリオ編成で演奏するとき、自分の心の中でイメージするものは、1969年に録音されたマジック・サム・トリオのアン アーバー・ライブでのあの命を削るような強烈な演奏だ。演奏の強度を高めるのに、バンドは大音量である必要は無い。 


Will I ever be in the main stream of the current blues scene in Chicago by stubbornly maintaining such an old school style? I doubt it. However, all I want to do is to play intensely the traditional blues to my heart’s content. 



I have started planning my next Japan tour in 2020 Spring. 


After my Japan Tour (2 0f 3) 日本ツアーを終えて(その2) 

(continued) (前回からの続き) 

Despite these potential pitfalls, my tour was a success. The audience appreciated the traditional style of Chicago Blues that I played. There are quite a few die hard old school blues fans in Japan. Playing for them really keeps me on my toes. 



Probably one of the most common misconceptions that the players in Chicago have is that they assume their popularity in the US, Europe, South America, etc. is also the case in Japan as well. 



But it is not. In particular, the newer generation blues artists are practically unknown in Japan. This time I drew the same number of crowds by myself as I did last year when I had a guest from Chicago touring with me. 



After playing around the city of Chicago for 2 years, I guess my performance got stronger in both my guitar and singing. Nothing was more gratifying than when I received a comment from the satisfied audience that they felt my spirit coming out of my play. 



I will continue delivering to Japan the blues that I have been playing over several decades in the US. Besides, one of my motives to go there is to enjoy the Japanese cuisine while I am there. Home is where my stomach is, after all. 



To be continued (続く)


After my Japan tour (1 of 3) 日本ツアーを終えて(その1) 


Earlier in the week, I finished my annual Japan tour for a week and came back to Chicago. The tour coincided with a major typhoon crossing Japan while I was there this time. I feel sorry for those who were affected by the monster typhoon in the eastern/northern parts of Japan. 



However, a close examination of the course of the typhoon beforehand revealed that my tour schedule would be off the course that the typhoon was taking. Therefore, I was relatively at ease before I left Chicago for Osaka, Japan. 



On the top of this natural hazard, I had to frantically deal with the no-show of my special guest whom I invited to go to Japan with me from Chicago this time. 



As I manage my tour remotely from the US, it takes a careful planning and dedicated preparation way ahead of time. This includes close communications with all the venues and the supporting musicians. In addition, the logistics, such as transportations and accommodations, cannot allow anything to fall through cracks. 



Plus for the fans who made reservations to come see my shows, I could only imagine how disappointed they were when they found out that the program was changed suddenly in the last minutes. 



(To be continued)  (続く)

Two years in Chicago (2 of 2) シカゴに住んで2年(その2) 

(continued) (前回からの続き) 

As for my guitar, the late greats Otis Rush and Magic Sam, and still alive and well Buddy Guy have been the three major influences since my younger days. Seeing Mr. Guy’s play in person in Chicago is a very stimulating experience. 



Their so called “squeeze guitar” styles consist of (1) sharp attack, (2) deep bending & vibratos, and (3) aggressive closure. 

彼らのいわゆる ”スクィーズ・ギター” とよばれるスタイルは、(1) 鋭どい突っ込み, (2) 深いタメ, そして (3) 攻める畳み掛け、から成る。 


Last year, by owning an Epiphone Riviera from the 1960s, I felt I got close to Magic Sam sound as much as I could. 



Meanwhile, for many years, Otis Rush’s guitar style had stood tall like Mt. Everest to me, because he plays his guitar with strings upside down. Recently I finally broke the barrier and have started playing a lefty guitar flipped upside down (reverse to the Otis Rush style). 

一方、長年の間、オーティス・ラッシュのギターは、あたかもエベレスト山のように高く自分の前には立ちはだかった。それは、氏のギターは弦が逆張りだからだ。最近になって、ようやく最初のバリアーを超えて、自分の左利きギター (つまり逆オーティス・ラッシュ) が少し形になって来た。 


All in all, I am in a great environment to soak myself in Blues music while I am in Chicago. Taking this opportunity, I am integrating all I have done in playing the blues in the past few decades. 


Two years in Chicago (1 of 2) シカゴに住んで2年(その1) 

Two years have passed since I came to Chicago in 2017. It has been a great experience being exposed to the current blues scene and playing around the city. 



Along with my own band activities, I am also well into the 2nd year working for the legendary bluesman JW Williams in Chicago. Our regular shows on Wednesday at Blue Chicago feature a soulful singer Laretha Weathersby as well. 

自分自身のバンド活動に加えて、当地の伝説的ブルースマン、JW ウィリアムスのバンドに加入して2年目にもなる。毎水曜日のブルー・シカゴでは、JWのバンドはソウルフルな女性歌手、ラレサ・ウェザースビーをフィーチャーしている。 


What I gained most through JW’s Band is that I was able to polish up my rhythm guitar backing. The important role of the back up members is to let the singer shine. I reconfirmed that it is all about the dynamics of the songs that make them sink into the audience’s mind. 

JW のバンドで得たものの一つに、ボーカルを引き立てるギターの弾き方がある。自分では以前から分かっていたつもりであったが、出るところは出て、絞るところはとことん絞る緩急の付け方を改めて学んだのは大きい。 

(to be continued) (続く)

Flying V left handed 左利き用 フライング V 

Since I got hold of a left-handed Flying V guitar last year, I have been digging the late greatest Otis Rush’s music more than ever. Throughout my music journey, he has been my biggest influence and inspiration. 



He was a left-handed guitarist and played a right-handed guitar flipped upside down without re-stringing the strings, similar to the way Albert King played. 



This is one of the factors that makes their guitar play unique because of the ease of bending high strings deeply by pulling them down. Figuring out the chord positions upside down takes patience for me like solving a puzzle piece by piece. 



I can now visualize in my mind how Otis Rush’s right hand (left hand for me being right-handed) moves over the fret and where it is going. All of his albums are sounding refreshing to me again. 

ようやくオーティス・ラッシュの指と右手 (右利きの自分にとっては左手) の動きが見えるようになってきた。氏のアルバムが今また全て新鮮に聞こえる。 


It took me several decades to come this far since I was awed by his guitar play in my high school days. I needed to fully soak myself in the blues in Chicago to dig Otis Rush’s music deep enough to truly appreciate what he had done. 


Tale of the Riviera リビエラ話 


Last Fall I became a proud owner of a 1967 Epiphone Riviera (photo). This selection was crucial for me to complete my guitar sound. 

昨年秋に、もう製造されていないエピフォンの1967年製リビエラ(写真) を手に入れた。以来、それは自分のサウンドを固める貴重なギターとなった。 


Originally I intended to dig the late great Magic Sam tones that were captured in his masterpiece “Westside Soul” and “Black Magic” albums. In my opinion, it has a crunchy blues guitar tone that cannot be reproduced by any other modern guitars. 

元はと言うと、マジックサムが残した偉大なアルバム”ウェストサイド・ソウル“ や ”ブラック・マジック“ で聴ける、あの独特の硬質なトーンを追求したかった。私見ながら、昨今に作られたギターには無いブルージーな音が出る。 


It turned out that this guitar can be versatile for fine rhythm backings behind singing and good for strenuous “squeeze” play with full of deep bending notes as well. The late Mr. Otis Rush used to use one in the 1960’s as well. 



Its sound quality is comparable to the Gibson ES-335 that I have own since 1970s. These old ones somehow have naturally aged tones that fit my needs well. 

その音質は、僕が1970年代から使っているギブソンのES-335 にも匹敵する。こういった古いギターは、年季の入った自然なトーンが出る。 


In conjunction with my all time favorite guitar amp, Fender Twin Reverb, it will be my companion for a very long time from this point on. 


As the years go by 年月とともに 


I was born in April. The other day another year passed by. I have been told that people develop maturity and tolerance as they get older. 



In my case, however, my patience against daily nonsense is gradually fading away. It is probably because I am less concerned about how I am perceived by the others as I get older. 



Particularly in the artistic and free spirit of music world that I am in now, I have encountered numerous occasions that do not make common sense in public. 



To me, blues music is not only a great art form that I admire, but also a means to make a living. When it comes to doing business, mutual trust and respect go hand in hand in my stubborn world.



As is often said, “Learn wisdom by the follies of others”, after all. 


My journey 旅は続く  


When we perform on stage, it is gratifying to see people enjoy the music we play. In particular, when they are there to celebrate their special occasions such as birthday, anniversary, etc, it is heartwarming to see them having a good time. 



The other night, it was a retirement party in the audience where a group of people gathered to have fun. Over five years ago, I took a retirement myself from the fast paced life in a corporate world. Since then I have been pursuing my career as a full time musician. 



It has been a daily struggle to make both ends meet as a blues musician. Especially in Chicago, there are many great blues musicians seeking opportunities to perform, and yet, there are only so many venues that could provide them with exposure. In the good old days, I assume things were different. 



I am approaching my two year residency in Chicago where I came to see how far I can go as a blues player. In this journey, it is not the destination that is all important because I am enjoying the process of trying to get there day to day.



Blues with no frills 飾りの無いブルース 


I started playing the guitar and blues harp in my teenage years without any formal music training. Somehow I had skills to learn how to play instruments by ear. 



There is something about the blues music that inspires me but cannot be described in music scores. It is the emotion that comes out of the inner players. Without that, blues can be repetitive and monotonous. 

ブルースという音楽は、楽譜には表すことのできない、心を動かす何かがある。それは演奏者 (あるいは歌い手) の内なる感情が外に出て来るからだ。それが無いと、ブルースは同じパターンの繰り返しで単調になりかねない。 


Over the past few decades, there have been only a few moments I recall vividly of my own performance; which includes once in Kyoto in an established night club, another one in Minneapolis at a dive bar, and the other one was outdoor in Austin TX where I played my slide guitar. 



In those few minutes, I felt so naturally high that I was enjoying the sounds coming out of the band myself as if I was in the audience. Connecting with the crowd was also crucial. 



Raw and gritty blues touches my soul. I would much prefer playing my guitar straight through an amp with no effectors. 



I just want to play the blues with passion and no frills.