You are visitor number: 4051

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. 


1 year anniversary with JW Williams Band, JW ウィリアムス・バンドと1周年 


Last Spring, I was very fortunate to land a guitarist position with the legendary JW Williams & Chi-Town Hustlers. Since then I have had opportunities to play around in Chicago. 

昨年春に、シカゴの第一線で長年活躍する伝説的なブルースマン、JW ウィリアムス氏のバンド、チャイタウン・ハスラーズに幸運にもギタリストとして加入して、もうすぐ1年になる。以来この街で数多くのライブをこなしてきた。 


Mr. Williams is known among the blues fans in Japan as well. He performed at the Japan Blues Festival last Summer. 



JW’s powerful singing skills while playing his bass guitar always leave my jaw dropped in awe. Also his staging to flow songs one after another is quite new to me. It is an entertaining way of playing the blues.  



While the sound of Chicago Blues has changed with time, there are a handful of living legends still retaining the traditional style of the blues from its heyday. 



I am blessed by catching both styles of current blues scenes in Chicago - the old school and the contemporary. The traditional style of Chicago Blues may be fading away slowly even in Chicago, but I believe that blues music is a universal language and will live on in daily life. 


Multiple instrumentation  複数の楽器を演奏すること 


Lately I have been playing my bass guitar and drums at blues jams, making public appearance occasionally (photo below: courtesy of Ariyo at Rosa’s Lounge in Chicago). 



Playing multiple instruments helps me to know exactly the sound I want when I perform with my band. 



It is my attempt to make a progress toward recording a traditional Chicago Blues album with all instruments played by myself - guitar, harp, bass, and drums. 



It is on my to-do list to clear one of those days. There are so many things to do, and yet, there is so little time. 



(In the picture below I am playing the bass guitar on the furthest right. 写真下では右端でベースギターを弾いている。)

Have I seen enough of Chicago? シカゴをもう堪能したのか? 


It has been a year and a half since I came to Chicago in 2017. As a new comer, I have done fairly well playing many gigs including my own in the past year. 



Recently I have moved to the city of Chicago from the suburb to stay closer to the blues scene of this town. Accordingly my living cost went up substantially. As the late Mr. Otis Rush song goes, “Ain’t Enough Coming In To Take Care Of What’s Got To Go Out”. 



I am practically living in my dream day to day by playing the blues in this town, the home of Chicago Blues. But I have already seen both good and bad sides of it. If I continue staying here, it is for the love of the blues. 



In my humble opinion, being impressed by music performance is one thing, but being inspired is another. I would be more than happy if I could ever play the blues that inspires the audience in my life time. That is what I strive for. The show must go on. 


The good old school shuffle  古き良きシャッフル 

The attached video is one of my recent performances that took place in the Chicago suburbs. In retrospect, it was this kind of down home shuffle that got me deep into Chicago Blues. 



It was my first time to play as this trio setting - EG McDaniel on bass and Chris Alexander on drums. Both players are highly regarded as blues veterans in the area. It was truly my privilege to play with them. 

今回このトリオで演奏するのは初めてだった。ベースの EG マクダニエル と ドラムのクリス・アレキサンダーはともに、この界隈では良く知られたブルース・ミュージシャンである。今回この二人と演奏できて光栄だ。 


This song was played with total spontaneity as an encore. But I felt the band sounded as if we had been playing together for a long time. As soon as I started the intro, the rhythm section came in with the exact groove I was looking for. 



Performing as a small unit makes my own play stronger. From this point on, I will mostly play as either a trio or less setting, namely, solo or duo depending on the venues. 


My soul searching 自分のソウルを求めて 


One of the most frequently asked questions is how I got into playing the blues. 



It has been decades since I was bitten by the blues bug in the late 1970s. I grew up in Osaka and Kyoto where the blues boom was epicentered at that time in Japan. The wave faded in the 80’s, but the bug is still alive and well. 



To me, blues has been the music that makes me feel good. It takes good blues to cure the blues, though. 



Blues music ultimately brought me to Chicago, the home of Chicago Blues. What I want to do here is to play the blues at the highest level within my power. 



It is to satisfy my soul regardless of how big or small the audience. Besides, you never know who is watching me that might lead to future opportunities. 



Will I ever become well known as a front man in public? Probably not. Not at least within the time frame that I can enjoy living in Chicago. But as they say, the impossible is often untried, after all. 


My journey continues 旅は続く 


By the end of this Spring I will have performed 10 times with my own band in the Chicago suburbs, and well over 100 times with the legendary JW Williams Band at Chicago’s premier night clubs. 



I consider these numbers respectful after living in Chicago for only a year and a half. Moving to Chicago was definitely the right call. 



Playing constantly in public makes my performance strong. As the Japanese saying goes, it takes one hundred battles to become an expert warrior. 



In retrospect of my life, immigrating to the U.S. from Japan a few decades ago was a bold move, and the most critical I have made. 



Because there was no guarantee to be able to survive in this country at that time. I was merely a dreamer, probably overly self confident and ambitious. 



Now I am pursuing my dream of playing the blues in Chicago, the home of Chicago Blues. 



In my humble opinion, if I had saved a safe return route, I would not have come this far. My journey still continues. 


Solo performance in Chicago ソロ・パフォーマンス 


This week I made a debut as a solo performer in the Chicago area. Over the past 5 years before I came to Chicago, most of my activities had been trio settings with bass and drums. 



Playing solo requires keeping the time on the guitar, filling the space, while singing all at the same time. Without a rhythm section, I am exposed naked to the audience because any misnotes or off beat can be heard. 



The sound image of my solo performance may be reminiscent to some people of the music in Magic Sam’s solo album “Give Me Time”. Plus, I use a resonator to play slide guitar in open G or open D tuning. It is a mix of traditional Chicago Blues and early R&B as I usually perform with my own band. 

音の感じはマジック・サムのソロアルバム “ギブミー タイム” に近いものがあるかも知れない。加えてドブロギターで、オープン G か オープン D チューニングのスライドギターも弾く。伝統的なシカゴブルースと初期のR&B曲を混ぜ、普段自分のバンドで演る音楽と変わらない。 


Shortly I plan to add a hands-free harmonica to my solo performance. It is the beginning of diversifying my marketability. 


Attempt to be a multi-instrumentalist 複数の楽器を演奏する試み 


I have recently started playing bass guitar at local blues jams. A few months ago I also started playing drums as a jammer as well 



Knowing how to play multiple instruments helps to know exactly what I want for my band sound. 



The early practice method that fits me best is to find a whole album with varieties of songs that I can play along with day to day. I have a few of those for bass and drums, respectively. 



For example, The Aces’ two studio albums are classic text books to play the traditional Chicago Blues. 



In my opinion, whether I can be fluent in new instruments or not depends on the product of intensity and durations of practice. It would take years of effort to be consumable in public. 



As I already play guitar and harmonica, I am now headed toward all one-man band recording in the not too distant future.