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About professional musicianship  プロフェッショナルなミュージシャン・シップについて  


My blues band started performing weekly at a blues club in Milpitas CA last summer when the state reopened for business. It is great to have regular gigs because I do not have to spend my energy on booking gigs. I am very grateful for the support from the venue. 



After several evolutions in my band members since then, I have recently landed on the configuration that I feel most comfortable with in terms of the style of music I want to play. That is the traditional blues and early Rhythm & Blues. 



When I choose musicians to work with, my criteria are simple. If the technical skills are met, the next critical consideration is whether the musician desires to work with me. No ego issues. Not to mention, punctuality and preparation for work are two fundamentals. 



I recently had an opportunity to invite someone as a guest player whom I consider one of the top musicians in the area. In response to my thank you note for the performance after the show, this is the exact quote of this person: 



“Yes, it was great fun. I’m good with whatever you choose to do and thank you for having me.” That night we had the most crowd and the quality of the show was one of the best I have ever had. 



What great musicianship and professionalism! It felt like a cool breeze to me in hot Summer. This person knew well that I was the owner of the show and my reputation, if any, would be on the line if something would have gone wrong. 



This gave me some hope for me to continue playing the blues in public. 


Next phase in life 次にやることは? 


Since the reopening of business in California last Summer, fortunately I have had performance of my own twice a week on average. I realized that adding more would leave me no time to do anything else. 



From 2017 for nearly 3 years I was living in Chicago, the blues capital of the world. Playing around the blues clubs there was my dream come true. Anything beyond that has been a bonus to me. 

僕は2017年からほぼ3年シカゴに住んだ間に、その街のブルース・クラブで多くのライブをこなした。シカゴはブルース音楽では世界の首都だから、長年の夢が叶ったのだ。 それ以降の活動はすべて、自分にとってはボーナスだ。


The music I dig most is the late greats Otis Rush / Magic Sam styles of electrified guitar blues. For decades, I had been trying to emulate them. Based on that foundation, I have been able to build my own form of playing the blues. 



However, it is becoming more and more clear in my mind that there is not much of a market for such traditional blues nowadays. Even in Chicago, the good old school Chicago Blues sound that I dug so deep is rare, if not extinct. 



Looking ahead, remaining on my to do list are to record a new album and hopefully reactivate my annual Japan tour. 



After that, I will be likely in a transition to the next phase in life whatever that might be. Perhaps with gradually reduced frequency or mostly in closer locations to perform in public.



Because I have achieved most everything I wanted to and could achieve thus far since I came to this country 35 years ago. 



Leading my band 自分のバンドを率いるということ 


Three months have passed since the reopening of California State in June this year. I am now actively performing at a rate of 100 shows a year with my band plus including some of my solo shows “unplugged”. 



As an independent musician I do all the booking by myself. Therefore, I can choose only the gigs that I want to do. In between playing music, I play golf to maintain good health. This is the life style I dreamed of many years ago. 



Leading my own band is like owning a small business. I spend more time on maintaining and promoting the band while staying on top of my game as a musician. Herding strong individuals takes good interpersonal skills and patience. 



Probably these are the reasons why many musicians would rather focus on only playing music as a supporting musician rather than a band leader. 



Owing small business is often compared to a "dog-sled". Unless you are the lead dog, the view never changes. With the resurgence of the COVID variant, uncertainty still lies ahead. I might as well enjoy the changing views while I have the opportunities to do so. 

小規模のビジネスを仕切ることは、”犬ゾリ” にたとえられることがある。つまり、先頭の犬でなければ景色の変化が見えないのだ。コロナ・ウィルスの変異種が再びはびこる昨今、先の見通しはまだまだ不確かだ。が、移り変わる景色は楽しめる間に楽しんでおこう。

FAQ よく聞かれる質問 


One of the most frequently asked questions is how I got into blues music while I was born and raised in Japan. 



In the 1970s, there was a big blues boom that took place in Japan. Many big name players came from Chicago during those days. 



Perhaps it was the aftermath of its popularity in Europe in the 1960s when famous British Rock Bands, such as Cream, Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, etc. covered the Chicago Blues songs. 



By the mid 1980s, however, when Disco music was dominant in the music world, the blues wave in Japan had faded away and never came back. I was lucky enough to catch the tail end of it. 



It was in my teenager days when I was bitten by the blues bug as I was growing up in Japan, and I still have it after over 4 decades. 



From 2017 to 2020, I paid my utmost respect to the Chicago Blues by moving to Chicago and living there for 3 years. Now I am back in the San Francisco South Bay and regaining my groove. 



Humbly speaking, I consider playing the blues a calling from above to satisfy my soul. 


California reopening カリフォルニア州の再オープン 


As the COVID vaccination rates go up, the infection rates are going down significantly in California. The state is aiming to fully reopen on June 15. I do hope it will happen as planned. 



I have started booking gigs for my band this Summer. To begin with, I secured two regular bookings that could add up to nearly 80 shows a year. In addition, I am hoping to reschedule my annual Japan tour toward the end of the year or early next year. 



This is exactly what I came back to California from Chicago for after my 3 year tenure playing the blues clubs there. Instead of being a sideman for big names in Chicago, I chose to continue leading my own band as before. As the saying goes, “Better be the head of a dog, than the tail of a lion.”  



There are some great musicians in the Bay Area to play the style of blues that I want to play as well. I am looking forward to integrating what I have built over the decades into a quality show. 


Fully vaccinated at last 遂にワクチンを接種した 

Today I was fully vaccinated for COVID-19 at last. The past year has been difficult for everybody. I keep my hope that the day to go back to our normalcy will come soon. 



During the lock down, it became common for musicians to provide live streaming for their performance on line. However, I tried to resist the temptations to do so. 



Because, in my opinion, a live audience is a must have for blues music. Interaction with the audience could make me get down deeper and often helps enhance my performance. 



While I had some spare time, I picked up my golf game where I left off years ago. I had sealed off my golf clubs in order to concentrate on playing music. Now the weather is nice, jogging along the Pacific Ocean is also refreshing. 



For the longevity of my career as a musician, both mental and physical health are important. I cannot wait till I hit the local venues to play the blues and tour to Japan again when the pandemic is under control finally. 


Fork in the road of life  人生の分岐点  

I left my day job in a corporate environment 7 years ago. I have been playing music full time since. Although it was financially a risky move, it turned out to be one of the happiest decisions I made in my life. In a way it was like trading my bread & butter for total freedom. 



A common question I often receive is how I made my career change from a technologist to a musician. The underlying implication of this question is that it was insane. But in my mind, it was the other way around. 



I had been in an R&D field for over 20 years where I had to be innovative to survive. That is to keep finding new paths where there are no known solutions as to what to do. It takes conviction in my own ideas and, to some degree, rebellion against existing authorities. When breakthrough moments come, the sense of reward is enormous. It is like walking a long dark road all by myself and often getting lost till I find a dim light far away. To me music helped to keep my sanity. 



Another big gamble I took was to move to Chicago in 2017. Playing around the blues clubs in Chicago was my dream come true. Despite that I practically had no connections in the area beforehand, I was very fortunte to have over 200 gigs in my 3 year residency there. My performance peaked before I moved back to California last year. 



I felt that I could continue pursuing my music career and satisfy my soul regardless of where I would live. At the moment I am waiting for the pandemic to be under control, when we can all get our collective groove back. I am stooping low right now so that I can jump high. 


2021 and beyond, 2021年とそれ以降 


Earlier this year, I made a decision to move back from Chicago to the Bay Area in California. After nearly 3 years of my residency in Chicago, I reached the point that I accomplished most of what I could achieve in that period. 



Perhaps I might have been able to continue working as a side man in Chicago, but it was about time for me to focus on leading my own band. 



Under the current pandemic situation, there would not be much opportunity to perform in public for the remainder of the year. At some point in next year, I hope that COVID-19 will be under control in society. My new recording and Japan tour will be due at that time. 



As an independent blues musician, I can be selective in what gigs I want to do. Namely, playing the music I want to play in the way and where I want to play. If that is not an ultimate goal in my music career, I do not know what is. 


Magic Sam’s influence マジック・サムについて 


Another major influence in my younger days was Magic Sam. His masterpiece albums 

 “West Side Soul” and “Black Magic”, recorded in the 1960s are still among the top of my favorites. 

僕が若い頃に影響を受けたもう一人は、マジック・サムだ。彼の2大傑作アルバム、“ウェストサイド・ソウル” と “ブラック・マジック” は今も最も好きなアルバムの中に入る。 


His distinguished guitar tone in these albums was attributed to the “mini-humbucker” pickups on Epiphone Riviera manufactured in the 1960s. But equipment contributes to only a part of his sound. 

この2枚のアルバムでの彼のそれと分かるギターのトーンは、1960年代に製造されたエピフォン社のリビエラの “ミニ・ハンバッカー” と呼ばれるピックアップから来る。しかし器材だけでは、彼のサウンドは再生できない。 


For example, his Stratocaster extends notes beautifully in his fire breathing performance at the Ann Arbor Blues Festival Live in 1969. In the rare video footage of his performance in Europe in the same year, he was playing Earl Hooker’s Les Paul guitar. The boogie groove with his finger picking was out of this world. 



So far I have covered many Magic Sam tunes along with my other two favorite Chicago Westside Blues Guitar players’ tunes - Otis Rush and early Buddy Guy. 



In the past few years while I was living in Chicago, I dared to play Magic Sam’s song entitled I Feel So Good. It is a talking style fast boogie. When I nailed it on stage, I realized that at last I covered almost all the blues songs I wanted to cover since I started digging the traditional Chicago Blues in my youth. 

シカゴに住んだこの数年の間に、僕はマジック・サムの I Feel So Good という曲を大胆にも演奏していた。トーキング・スタイルの速いブギー曲だ。ステージでこの曲を自分の思い通りに演奏出来た時、これまで長年にわたり掘り下げてきた伝統的なシカゴブルースの曲で、カバーしたい曲はもうほとんどやってしまったと感じた。 


This recently prompted me to start writing a few of my own songs. However it is not something I generate out of the blue. I stand on the ground of traditional blues and early R&B that blues & soul giants created decades ago. 

それで最近になって、自分の曲も少し書き始めた。しかしそれは、無から有を生じるような類いではない。僕は、何十年も前にブルースやソウルの巨人が造り上げた、伝統的なブルースや初期のR&B の土台を踏まえている。

Left handed guitar (3 of 3) 弦逆張りギター奏法について(その3) 

( Continued) (前回からの続き) 

When I moved to Chicago in 2017, I attended all the blues jams happening in town for my networking with the local musicians. 



After continuing blues jam attendance for 3 months, I shifted my exposure to sitting in with the working bands. That was how I luckily landed the opportunity to join JW Williams Band. In parallel, I had started my own band acitivities as well. 

そして3ヶ月経つと、露出の方法をブルースジャムから、有名なブルースクラブでライブをやっているバンドに、ステージで飛び入りさせてもらうように変えて行った。こうして幸運にも、地元で名の通ったJW ウィリアムス氏のバンドに、レギュラーメンバーとして雇われたのだ。それと平行して、自分自身のバンドの活動も始めていた。 


Meanwhile, I made the best use of blues jams as a means to do some experiments with an audience. This included playing a bass guitar, drums, and my left-handed guitar. The most efficient method of improving instrumental skills is to play under pressure. 



By the end of last summer, I was playing my left-handed guitar on the stage. An avid blues fan commented to me that it was insane to alternate a right and a left-handed guitar. 



The left-handed guitar method is deep. If Otis Rush’s guitar is compared to Mt. Everest, I am probably looking up the summit only from its foothill. It takes both conviction and emotion to play blues guitar. 

この弦逆張り奏法は奥が深い。オーティス・ラッシュ氏のギターをエベレスト山に例えるなら、おそらく僕はその麓 (ふもと) から頂上を見上げているに過ぎない。ブルースギターは、確信 (信念) を持って弾くことと感情を移入することが大切だ。