…and then, there were 4. Life is change…

…and then, there were four

 
When I was a struggling graphic designer I went through a lot of jobs. The graphic field was hard. A lot of competition, and when the economy went south, the designers were the first to be put on the streets. I could always tell when the ax was about to fall. I did not know it then, but after a while, I begin to understand the “sense”, the “vibe” the internal warning, that something was wrong in the force. Something funky was near. I could always, always tell.

 

I got the “vibe” the other night…well really before that in small bits, but full on the other night.
 
Hmmm now, should I skip ahead and keep not keep the suspense… hmmmm, Stretch the story is more like it.
 
Naw, ok the first meeting with the Smooth Jazz band. It was a bit surprising, I was under the impression from what I was told that this was brand new, meaning this was the first practice of the group. When I arrived at the rehearsal they had already put together four or six songs. Wow. I thought we were starting together but, I was already behind. Ok, not a big deal just some homework. Then I hear about a gig, after practice. I was not told direct about it, just heard, so I ask later via text. Is this just something for you guys ( I would have been ok with) or does it involve me? We want you in it if you are free. I was told. Ok, I say, I will make it work. I am under the impression this is a standard gig, we do a set or two, then bam…over. Maybe usually about 12 songs. However, to me, it was mostly unknown. I had no details. After a while, I read on the chat connection. We will play for two hours. I am thinking this will be a lot of songs needed, but there is still over a couple of weeks away. I hear something about needing 20-25 songs. Hmmm. Ok, some serious work will be needed.
 
I get the list of what will be practiced at the next meeting. Review the 6-8 old songs, then go over the 5 new ones. Ok, I do my homework. I find the songs, find the charts, transpose when needed. What key I ask. I am told the original keys. Hmmmm it was not very helpful, somewhat only.
 
Ok, practice session, I arrive at the right place this time. Last time I went to the wrong place. I missed part of the practice. Ok, I am there, I take a group picture in the hall. When looking at it I think. These young guys and the old man… not really a good fit.
We start with a review song. Once again I have an issue with one string tuning. The tuner says it is right, my ear says it is wrong. We play, it sounds bad. No one says anything, except me. I am not happy. I retune, we play just a bit, it sounds ok.
Next, We skip right to a new song. These guys have it, like they have been playing it a while. I am figuring out things. Stops, cords, etc. next song, same, but more so, because I was not told which version. Ok, I am making notes and changes, they are playing and talking like they have been through this song before. I get the sense they are all bonded. I am the outsider, I felt more comfortable with a Japanese group who spoke no English than with these guys, speaking English.
 
We moved on to another review this went ok. All seemed happy with it and the change up to make it more funky, the drummer’ Idea. So we are told we have only 30 min left our time was cut, but he, the leader forgot to say something. Ok. I say, ok, next Friday? Is there a chance to do one sooner, I feel I need to catch up with you guys. I am told, it is fine with me, but these other guys are working and their times change. Ok, I say… I am feeling a disturbance in the force, as it had been most of the evening.
 
Ok, we are off into the night. Bro hugs and all that.
 
Ok, my impression is that these three guys have bonded well and that at least the keyboard player and the Saxman have gotten together and went through/ over some songs. The songs they listen to, I am familiar with but not songs I tune into, seek out on the radio. I am not a big fan of Kenny G. But some of his songs are good. This guy is heavy Kenny G sound. Bruno Mars, talented guy but not a regular on my song list. These guys could be my grandsons. I have played with young ones, with no issues, but these guys felt…different.
I go home and layout my study plan until the next session.
 
The next day I receive an email. “We have decided it would be best since you have been very busy on other projects if we did the next couple of gigs without you and bring you in next year, once you get more comfortable with the songs. Ok, Good idea I say!
 
Hmmm, my “sense” screams re alert!
 
Ok, I think on things for a bit, an awhile later, I email back. “Yeah, good idea about my laying out for now. Just so I am clear. I should keep working on these songs and the new ones just not plan on giving until next year…or should I just pause until you call???” My thought “I might as well not waste time if this is not going to be a thing.” Better to find out now, clearly.
 
Having been in the Hollywood scene of many years. We developed a joke phrase, “we’ll give you a call!” Many artists get this when auditioning for a part. Thanks for coming in, we will review things and give you a call with the results/ if we will use you/ need you/ fit. There is some part in old Chinese Kung Fu movies where some youth is trying to get into the Shaolin temple. They wait for days, a monk comes out and says, thanks for coming please go home! It was over for them, fail!
 
So the “We’ll give you a call is the same thing” fail! The auditioning artist understands this. It is a polite brush off!
 
So I am told, “yeah, just hold tight on those songs, I will be reviewing things and seeing what works. probably will be making changes. I will keep you posted!” I had to laugh to myself … bam there it was! “We’ll give you a call!”
The Zensense is right-on again. Not a direct dump, but at my age one can read between the lines. It was not a good fit! Having that when playing is important. I could see that just from the photo I took.
 
So the way I see it, I am back to 4 bands. I will keep things at this. Another drummer who had contacted me before got back in touch. He said when you are done with all that Jazz give me a call let’s get together. Nah, I will pass. He is also young and he is into heavy Reggae. I already think he is kind of shaky. I will focus more on where I am, and have, even solo.
So much for that dream of a regular paid working monthly band. Disappointing but not surprising. Onward…yosh. “Load another arrow, settle the mind”

*update* this drummer contacted me again. really wants to do something, and aim more for the gaijins, not just the locals. Maybe more work there…Something to think about at the least. One never knows the path until you step on it…

Meanwhile in other news…

Meanwhile in other news than Bandworld …

With the aid of blessings, we have gotten our own home. Not muy doing but my wife. She is really taking care of home front business and has gotten her dog business off to a solid footing after just a couple of years. So we are settled into life in Japan. The Local Kamis are with us, the week we settled on the house the next day was the largest Typhoon in decades, it most went by us here in Osaka. A major blessing. There are still people with blue tarp covers on their roofs from last year’s big one!

Little by little things are coming together band wise. With this new group(s) hopefully, I can work somewhat regular. It would be a great blessing to make at least what I spend on practice and transportation costs. I would be pleased with that.

Speaking of transportation…One of my continued regrets is losing my boat. I see no way of replacing it here in Japan, under current financial conditions. From time to time I see people I know sending pictures of their travel around Japan, a couple on motorcycles. From time to time I would think, I miss having my motorcycle and I would be ok with not having a boat if I had a motorcycle and could explore Japan on that since I have already seen some of the Inland sea by Sailboat. I could settle contently…mostly for that. Again the thought followed cost-wise no way right as I see it. So do not even dream. So my wife is speaking on the cost of my travel around town and says maybe a car would be cheaper for you. I followed with a Motorcycle would be cheaper! I expected that to be shot down. It was not dismissed right off and after some discussion and viewing some online sale pictures, it was ok’d for possibly next year. WoW!!! I can dream again of travel freedom and exploration!!!!! (Que Soundtrack “born to be wild”).

Maybe a new blog… A man, a shakuhachi and a Motorcycle…Backroads Japan.

LoL!!

 

In Shakuhachi World…

My sensei is performing in a small concert in Nov. He says there will be a “name” player also playing. It would be good for me to meet him. He also holds lessons 6 times a year fro a really really cheap price just to help people get to play Shakuhachi. He speaks English better than him, says my Sensei. I do not know what I could learn from him I will not from my teacher but it is worthwhile to get other input on sound and technique. I have no real set goals with the Shakuhachi other than to get better. I have no dreams of being a teacher or a big concert person. Whatever happens, happens. Becoming a “card-carrying” Komuso was the big goal, other than learning how to learn. Now as part of my spiritual practice it is really more of what “universe” has planned for me, with it. I am riding the wind in a sense.

Speaking of Komuso, I will be going out again after a long absence. I will be going to Momoji temple again in the Nara Mountains. My sponsor is expecting me. There is some kind of event happening that day with tea ceremonies. He said he will not be able to give me attention because of his duties. This is fine with me, I will not have to struggle with talking since I will be traveling alone as far as I know. I can just go in do my thing and leave. It will be the ending of the Autumn colors so I want to get in before they are gone.

I will plan on a couple more pilgrimages and Takuhatsu before the weather changes again and I get cold wimpy.

I have finally gotten my ceramic pieces, enough made to put on display for sale under my Osaka Lohan Charities banner. I made several Shakuhahci stands. I have a sale page set up on Facebook. About 100 people have seen it, with no interest 🙂 ! Sort of what I expected so it is ok. I will slowly put together a few more designs and improve on my technique. It is Art so if they sell they sell, if not oh well. I will end up giving some away as I bring in new stuff. I also have gotten a few other design and items ideas. So I will what happens. I may end up taking a break over part of the winter when I am not working to keep my attendance cost down.

 

meanwhile…Kyudo is still a challenge!!!

… really 5

 

“Everything must change…nothing stays the same…that’s the way of time…”

from a song. Songs are holders of truth, life.

Anyway, when we last visited the roaming musical Zennie undercover priest, the talk was of the bands. Since then things have moved along.

1. Sieki:

Yup, this band is up and running again. The thing with the drummer got worked out. I contacted another person who I have played with before. He said yes, but it was a weak sounding yes. I said think about it. After a few days of hearing nothing, I contacted another person I knew. He said yes, I will do it, right away. Then the other guy called me, when do we start? Too late I said you sounded unsure, we got someone else.
This new drummer is not so experienced but he is into it. We can work with his only practice days being Sunday and Thurs. Sunday is the preferred day anyway also the only day the leader can have a gig on. So it worked out.  Also a Sax man joined. He is not great but he has a better sound than the guy who plays Sax for us in Joes Girl Blues band. So we are back up and running. a 4hour rehearsal planned for this Sunday. The Job is at the end of the month. Maybe one more practice session before that. I will push for it!

2. Kruseders:

We did our gig at a small little hole in the wall. Nice stage and sound system. Things went smooth and well. We sounded decent. It was supposed to be a tips place, but I did not see any of that happening. It seemed more like a free showcase…live practice. It went well. Not sure if anything will come out of it, other than a practice session. Ok. I was not expecting anything so no disappointment. We do have a real spot upcoming @ Chicago Rock, end of the month. I have arranged for a guest Sax player to sit in for a couple of songs. That should be interesting. It will be a fun night. More on the Sax player later…

3. JGB band:

We had another practice and a gig the following night. It went well. We are comfortable playing together. I like the drummer she is solid! The Guitar player is also solid. The weakest point to me in the band is the Sax player. I really do not like his sound. It sounds out of key to my ears. It does not really matter I am under the impression this band is only for playing at Chicago Rock. So if the people there and the owner are happy that is what matters. The band has a good time when we play.

4. KanFuu band:

This is my new band and my favorite. I organized it for the Sakai Blues festival. We finally had our first practice and I got to hear the sound! I like it. Clean, funky, not overpowering. We did the three songs planned for the festival and the demo video for entry. We got along well and enjoyed the session. I will see about getting us a spot @ Chicago Rock and the Redhouse. It will give us some playing time together and a venue. The sound has potential and with the right contacts, exposer could get some regular play somewhere. We sound different from the circuit blues bands here. I like that!

Our rehearsal place was nice. Large and cheap. I had planned to chip in more for the rental since I was the reason for this practice. I brought in tea and Cake for a break snack. Everyone enjoyed that. When the time came for the collection for rental, I had planned on paying more, but it ended up I paid less. They insisted!

5. Dante Quartet:

This came from out of nowhere. I join a facebook group and this guy from LA had posted about coming to Osaka looking for band members. I responded. He had just released an album just moved to Osaka. He was doing Smooth Jazz. I love that. Something I wanted to do. Must more into that than blues which I played very little before coming to Japan. Here I was kind of pushed into that grouping. Anyway, I end up meeting this guy we connected for a short chat. Then later along with a Keyboard player and Drummer he met, we had a rehearsal. I was not really that ready with the new songs, but pulled it off ok, with some the others, just need some study time on y part. Nothing really complex. Just that week I had other bands every night for that week. So not much time also caught a cold and lost my voice just after the last gig. I am in recovery mode now!
So yeah, this band, all gaijin. we have planned weekly practice sessions, he paid for the practice space and he already has a couple of gigs lined up to perform!!! AWWW finally a serious minded real band!!! This could really pumped up my music life here in Japan. The guy is planing only on being here for a year…so far. However he has plans for stuff that could bring some good contacts and gigs!

I have made arrangments with the leader of the Krusedars to have this guy sit in on a couple of songs on our next gig. It will be good to have him meet and be heard by the club owner.

I may invite him to also play with the KanFuu band from time to time if I indeed get it going. This will also be the limit of my regular band involvement. Maybe a one time spot of something… but nothing on a regular bases. So we’ll see how this goes…

Yatta…Amitoufo

4.5


4.5 the bands

The month is starting off somewhat slow as far as music, but like much of life that is a perspective. That being even though there is no actual gig, or practice there is organizing. The bands I am with are setting up practice times now. Three of the four bands have gigs later this month, no, two of the four bands have gigs, but all are arranging for a practice session for upcoming stuff. All within days of each other.

Sieki: #1

This band suddenly became active. I was not expecting it. We have a gig at Chicago Rock next month. Just out of the blue. I did get a vague impression that we may do the Sakai Blues fest, from Lucky Joe the keyboardist. We do not have a drummer though. I mentioned I have a couple of contacts. A guy who recently contacted me is a drummer, wanted to start a band with me. I was thinking of him. Someone different, another gaijin would give us more market interest I think. He is out of town right now, and I have not heard back from him. Don’t know what he sounds like, so maybe it is for the best I ask someone else I know. I will wait another day for a reply then move on. I know he saw my mail, the software marked it. A major irk of mine is people getting an email and not replying for several days. At least a note, “I got it, I am busy right now.”

The Sieki band consists of Drums, Keys, 1-2 guitars, harp, three members sing. We do some blues some old school R&B. Nothing really outstanding about the group. The Guitarist, the leader can only do a gig on a Sunday night, unless it is there at the family club, the Redhouse. Or during the day at the Sakai fest, so the band has limits to other live houses. performances. Do not see it going anywhere. Just for fun and practice, in my head at least.

Krusaders: #2

This band is really Lightning Kurita and the Krusaders. It was put together to support this guitar player. He is very good at guitar and can sing, ok. the other players who sing, jo-san and We also pick songs we want to do, but really this is really about lightning Kurita. The Drummer is from the old Matsuo Blues band. He is ok, however, he does have his issues. However, still works ok with us. Jo-san is on Keys. This band could do something. but… Lightning plays with several others, Japanese style, so we do not put in any real practice time other than when there is a gig. So to me seems will never be tight tight tight. Unless we continue with the same songs over and over and over…boring. Guitar, Drums, Keyboard, vocals. and harp. Nothing special about the Instruments configuration. Two Gaijin is different though.

Jo-san Girl Blues Band. #3

This is kind of an interesting group.There are five of us, in this photo is a guest singer for the gig. Jo-san the keyboard player is an interesting showman. The drummer is a girl, she is good! There is a young guitarist also good, me and a Sax player. The Sax player is to my ears just so so. I have spoken of him before. I am not a fan of his tone. Jo-san and I handle the vocals and along with my harp that is our sound.
This band also has it’s limit. I asked if we would do the Blues Festival. Jo-san said the band is the owner of Chicago Rock’s idea, he would not be pleased for us to go out on our own. So that sounded like it is a band only for Chicago Rock was the impression I got. Cest La Vie. As I am not a big fan of the Sax, it is ok for whatever it is.

KanFuu band #4

This is my band, with members I selected. Also the only band with some variation. Trombone ( a girl), Bass, Harp, Mandolin, Keys, Drums ( a girl), Congas, vocals. I believe with the right songs this band could be a factor in the area. We have yet to play so it is hard to say for sure how the sound will be, but I have played with all of these people except for the trombone player and I have heard her play that why I chose her. There is at least a three-part vocal potential. I am really looking forward to hearing how this will come together. We have our first practice later this month. For the Sakai Blues festival in April/May. However, I want to video our practice and use it to get a spot at one of the live houses. All three of these bands will have practice with-in days or less of each other. Starting mid-Oct I will be a busy guy.

Kaze: #.5

This is my solo act. I have bass, guitar, backup vocals, Sanshin, drum on a looper. I will play Shakuhachi, Harp, and Piano live. When I practice I think, ok I can do this. I have done this before. But I am nervous about really putting it out there. Also, the chit chats with the viewers, but I have been told that should not be an issue. Once I get a good 30 min set together, I will go for it.

 

This Japanese way of not being with one band and getting a tight sound is troubling and something I struggle to deal with. At least with a solo act the good and the bad, it is all on me. Their way works for them, so … I have to roll with it. “when in Rome”.

Between these 4.5 groups, this is enough to keep me busy. If I can play it right maybe in a gig every couple of months at least. There is still my shakuhachi life, once in a while it slips into the modern scene. But mostly it is a Buddhist thing for me. My wife says, wow, you are so lucky. For a retired guy, you are soo busy with your “hobbies” Music, Shakuhachi, Kyudo, Ceramics, Zen. Even if you do not have a boat and teaching Kung Fu you still are “out there”. You are lucky to have something to drive and inspire your spirit. yeah! That is true. When my Gramps retired, he just watched TV and was dead in a few years. The body is not designed to just sit and watch TV. Whilst one breathes, get out and live!! Amitoufo

Shakyo

 

Koumyoji temple held an event, called Hotsuganmon or Shako. It is the practice of copying Buddhist Sultra as a method of meditation and prayers. I had wanted to attend, however, then I heard that it was difficult. That was changed later after my friend asked the Osho’s wife about it. It as not hard at all she said. Ok, I was in.

I made ready on the day. I had planned on going to Kyudo practice before going to the event. However, that changed as I needed to stop and get a wine bottle bag. I had gotten the Osho a late birthday gift, by Japanese custom I needed to give it in a bag. So I need to stop and shop. I was running a little behind on time so decided to pass on Kyudo and go direct to the event. I hated having to rush and did not want to be late as I may have missed something important or stand out as the late Gaijin!.

I arrived in plenty of time. Quite early. I was greeted by Osho and directed to the correct room. There his son was running the Shako. I picked a seat and was given the Sulta and copy paper. My first surprise was that it was not my imagined way of copying. It was really tracing on rice paper. Ok, for sure it would be easier. Not really much of a challenge. I guess though being a challenge was not the point.

I was about 45 min early. I settled in and did some meditation while waiting.

After a while, a couple of people showed up including my friend who spoke English. That would be helpful. My friend explained what she knew about it. Then the priest started. He spoke in Japanese, I understood next to nothing but did manage to get a few things. No pressure, like a meditation, relax, there will be chanting afterward, when you finish copying, do this and that, place it here, do this and that…

A couple of quick short questions to my friend and we started. I had a pen brush of my own and did not have to buy one. After a while, I grew concerned it would run out of ink or dry up. It was very old…very old and unused. I set about the task. Relaxing holding the brush as I recalled from doing Chinese writing instructions. I tried to keep the correct stroke order, but sometimes I did not. Not a big deal. I noticed from the printed paper the way the brush strokes were used and tried to copy. sometimes it would start light and end heavy, sometimes the opposite. I sort of got an idea of how it flowed after a while of doing it.

One of the things we needed to do was after writing the already printed part we were to insert a wish, a prayer. I chose one from the list, my friend had told me some of them beforehand, lucky for me. Then we need to write our own name. I totally was drawing a blank on my name kanji although I write it regularly. I thought I remembered towards the end, but I missed up the first character. The priest asked me what it said, I told him, so he was able to say it correctly when he did the ending prayers. I recalled later, that night when signing in for Kyudo how I messed up. Oh well.
There was another section that needed some kanji, lucky my friend was there she helped me with that part, by getting the kanji off the internet.

I went up to the alter, paper down on the pile, dropped some increase on the burner, prayed and returned to my seat. I was next to the next to the last one to finish. We then did some prayers and chanting and fish banging for timekeeping. The priest gave a small talk afterward, I had zero idea about what he was saying. Then we were finished.

So I thought…

We went downstairs to the garden, there we sat and talked with tea and sweets. I was shocked to find one of the guys spoke English. He, in turn, was shocked to find I was a priest and of Chinese Buddhism. Why was I not in China or someplace like that teaching, and this temple is a long ways from my home here in Japan, why travel so far. He was very curious, natural, very Japanese. They are curious about gaijin kind of people. Me being “different” was even more of an oddity.

After snacks, everyone drifted started off to home. I had a short talk with Osho-san about my experience and also Tai Chi, before I too headed off into the night. My friend was heading to a friend’s Club show, I head to the Kyudojo. Where I had a lousy practice, but that is another story.

It was an interesting afternoon. I will return again sometime. I can use some good merit if there is such a thing.

…Amitoufo

Koumyouji Zen Cafe vol 10


Komyoji -Zen cafe

This was to be my fourth visit to the temple, and the Zen Cafe. I was looking forward to it. I did not have a big plan of songs like I did the last. Then I carried equipment, had my looper and three songs prepared. This time just my Shakuhachi and nerve.
At first, I had big plans for the day. I would meet up with a couple of people who wanted to start a band with me, a couple of gaijin. They wanted to do some different music other than just blues. I was a bit Leary, the person I was in communication with gave me some same of reggae. I was not really into the type he showed me the video of. I told him, he was ok with that. The other thing I had some concern about with him, was his talking style. He sounds young, like my grandsons’ age. Not a big deal, the drummer in my new band she is also young. But this guy sounded like a hipster with his choice of words. I told him you know I am much older than you right? Yes, he said he was ok with that. Hmmm ok. So we tried to make a plan to meet and Jam. However we could not get the timing right so I aid let’s plan to another time.
Yeah, I was to meet them then go to the temple and afterward to Kobe of the blues night jam. After some serious thought about trying to do too much and the Kobe thing is not really that great. I thought I would go since I was going to be somewhat near. I chose to pass on that as well. I do not know if the temple thing would also be eating and social afterward. It also turned out that a friend of mine wanted to hear me play and meet the priest at the temple since she lived nearby. A last-minute contact.
So I was off to the temple. I thought I had it down on how to get there. I would walk from the train station to the temple. The last visit it did not take that long and seemed simple. However, the GPS was telling 30 min of walking and some weird route. I set on what I recalled from before and the GPS markings matched up so I kept at it. Still, I was having some doubts. There was a direction leading alongside a river, which I did not recall passing before. I walked for a while and things were ok, I was coming up on a turn said the GPS! But it felt wrong. I stopped and asked a guy who ran a barbershop, he was standing into the doorway. He had a map and looked it up. He also asked me did I mean such and such. I was not sure of his pronunciation, so I said yes. He pointed back to a corner I just passed and said go this way and a few things. Hmm ok, I thank him an started walking where he said. I was still feeling unsure and now going opposite from the GPS, but I knew the general direction. I walked for a while then decided to go back to the GPS. I walked for a while more, looking, feeling. I came to a big street that seemed familiar. It seemed like where I was when I took the bus. Yes, I was at the bus stop where I got off last time. Ok, I knew where I was. I turn off the lame GPS and just walked. I was about 5 min away and found the temple easy as the rain stopped.
I went inside and found my friend the priest. He asked if I just got there I said yes. He asked if I was ok, and something else I said ok. We went downstairs and he showed me where to set up. Right away I was to go on. Wow, ok, I rolled with it. He gave me an introduction to the group, Komuso, etc etc and I was on. Wow, shocked, not expecting to be so soon, but ok, it was getting on in the afternoon and there were only 2.5 hours left before ending. I sat and started, with Choshi, something simple to warm up. I had nothing prepared after that, I could have done Sanya another rational song, but I chose to just freestyle. Whatever came out, that was meant to. I played for about 5 min on that. It went well I thought and people seemed impressed. I felt like I lost no face. The priest, Osho, I found out is his title. I had been calling him Sensei, but later my friend corrected me along with him. Anyway, he talked a bit more about me and a few people had questions which we answered.

From there Osho took me to the other room saying he would get me some wine.

We entered into another section, my first time there other than passing through. It opened into the garden, we sat at the big table with several others already there. I was given some wine. I was given food and told what was eatable for me. A short time later Osho’s wife brought me a small pizza made for me and more wine choices. Ahh Life was good. We chatted a bit and listened and watched the rain in the garden. It was comfortable. I ate and ate. The pizza was strange with peanuts but it was good. Along with some fried fish and fish cake on the side, I was a happy camper.
After a while, my friend shows up which was nice because she spoke Japanese and English which came in handy. I could relax even more. That is how I found out about the word “Osho” which means priest. I also found out that an event that was being held next week, sutra copying, which I thought as did she would be too difficult for me, was not too difficult. So I will attend. It is copying Buddhist scriptures as meditation and prayer.

We all sat ate and drank, enjoying the evening, also looking at some photos projected on the wall of some past events. I was surprised to see me in several of them. I also spoke a bit with the Shinto Tarot Card reader. I told her next month I want a reading, I will record it, so not to worry about understanding the translation.

Slowly people started leaving, when most of them had gone, Osho’s wife brought out three cakes she had made for Osho’s birthday. We sang had cake, drank a little more then slowly, we all bowed out and left.

I walk back to the train station without any problem. Now I know exactly the correct way. So next time I should have no problem. I also marked the location on my smartphone map. Just in case. I will be back again, this will be a regular place for me. I like the vibe there. I wish it was closer, but…oh well

It was good I simplified my evening, I could just relax and enjoy the time and not rush off to a questionable enjoyment at a far off Jam session. Simple is best. I made my way home, the heat was back up again outside, the rain had stop. While walking home I thought, wow Japan life. perhaps the only place one can go to an event at a Buddhist temple and go home lit!

 

Wind blows bamboo

A couple of days ago now, was the monthly Classical Shakuhachi meeting. We skipped Aug, it was too hot or that is just the regular break time. My ceramic class was also closed for that month. Maybe it was the hottest time of the year so a break was in order or Obon season. Which may be more like it, now that I think of it…maybe both. it does not matter, there was no meeting. I also took a break from going to my Shakuhachi lesson with my sensei. I figured since it was a thing, I would do it also. It also saved me some money, that month.

It was not too bad as far as heat that day. There is a/c in the studio which helps even running on a low setting. There were 9 of us. I am getting the impression that is the new regular number now. Two of the members are junior to me, maybe three I am not sure about my friend the priest from Amagasaki. It is kind of cool that I brought him into the group. He fits right in.

We did our regular playing, I thought it was pretty cool that I could fro the most part follow along in a two-part song. We start together, the half plays one part the other half plays another then we end together. I can follow along with most of the reading. I still get lost at times and there are at times a note I do not know on a song. However, for the most part, I am with them on the songs. Until they start talking. Then I am lost but I figure out what is going on.

My turn came around to play I chose a song, not of the group, but I am comfortable with and I can play fairly well from memory. I will chose another song next time to keep with the focus of the group.
It is a line of Tanakita Mutakeshi, Sakurai Muefushi, and Kadota Flute. Not my style of Kinko. However, it was ok. I thought I played ok, not my best but ok. A while later I received a couple of compliments that I played with great heart, spirit. Now it could be a way of saying my technique was poor but my heart was in it :-). LoL
Sensei back when I was first starting. I played something for him, not classical. He said people would say you great spirit in your playing, the technique was not great but the spirit was. I could have taken it that way, but the expression the “ki” of the Sensei who said that did not have that kind of feeling. There were some other things said about he wants me to become greater than them or something like that. Anyway, it was kind of cool, to feel like I am making headway in my Shakuhachi path of the Japanese Arts. Because my Kyudo sucks, at least to me. My sensei did say once when I hit it is mostly from luck and laughed. As did I, truthful, painful and funny!
I digress.

After almost all turns we broke out the food. I say almost all because two fo the newbies passed on playing a solo. Out came the drinks and foods. Mostly snacks, cheese, dried fish, edamame, crackers, bread. I am the only one that brings mostly real food. I stop at a deli on the way on to the dojo. We eat and chat. Most of the chatting part I have no idea about, but I do get some and it helps my ear to listen. Even though I do not get it all I do not feel left out. It is kind of trippy to sit there, in a foreign country, with mostly locals doing a traditional art form, drinking sake ( with priests ) and eating, enjoying life, and not really understand all that is said, and yet not feel uncomfortable. I have been blessed with good retirement life. No money, but…we get by. I would say my Shakuhachi life is the most social encountering group of my studies and practices. Next would be the bands. Although I have been doing the Kyudo path longer than any of these, my social contacts with them have been limited compared to the others. At one time there was a cross over into the music realm with a few of the dojo mates but, that was brief and now gone. So yeah, the Shakuhachi world is my social outlet now mostly. I have met only nice folks, so far.

Now that the weather is more reasonable. Next month I will return to Komuso Takuhatsu. I have had a break with the heat of the Summer. Time to get back to my ministry as a “dharma Missionary” sharing the Sound Sutra 🙂 …Amituofo.

 

KanFuu…The Band

I have been organizing the band for the Sakai City Blues festival. It started when my friend from Taiwan said he was coming with friends to join. That was the kick start I needed to get an act together for myself. I had planned on him and one of his friends joining me. As things go that did not work out, they decided not to attend after all. Something to do with no sponsor or something. However, I had already set in motion a band for myself even if he could not attend.

I had contacted a few people. A mandolin player I have jammed with before, The keyboard player I jam with on a couple of bands, and a drummer who just joined one of the bands I am with. However I wanted more, I asked the drummer if she knew a trombone player I was impressed with from a Jazz session. She said yes, she is her friend she would ask. The trombone player said she was busy but would join. very cool I thought, very cool. she is a great player! I also asked a percussionist I have played with a few times about joining, for some weird reason he did not give me an answer, even though I always come to help him. Ok, I checked with a Conga player I know. He also had things to do, and a lot of discontent with the music scene and playing for free, etc, etc. Never mind I said, you are too busy. I asked the drummer if she knew someone. She suggested another drummer /percussionist, I had Jammed with at another session. We had met several times and were connected on FB, but I did not think of him, I thought he would be too busy. She asked him and said he readily agreed. I was pleased and surprised. The players were set.

3 of 6 Members – Bass, Keys, Mandolin

Drums, Bass, Mandolin, Keyboard, Percussion, Trombone. I could pull in a guitar player, but I figured this was enough. I could get a nice sound out of what was there. also with the mandolin, a guitar was not really needed. I explained that there was no money in this, however I did want to go for a couple of spots at a live houses in the area I knew of. They were in.

Next came the tricky part of finding free time to gather fro the first rehearsal. I wanted to do so before the end date of filing to join the festival. We needed a Youtube video. I could have used one of mine with other players, but I wanted it with this group also some photos.  It took some doing but we came up with a date. The next bit of trickiness was a location to practice. The studio I had in mind was closed on the day we choose. Sigh. The owner, manager said if needed he would open for me. I was against that as it was his day off and I did not want to be a hassle. This person was the leader of another band I played with and helped out a couple of times. With some effort the current members located a place that was closer to most of us and cheaper. I was pleased and surprised at there interest and help, not just leaving it to me. The last thing with the rehearsal space was it was not so easy to get there just by train and walking. again the members came through with those that had cars would pick up those who did not! I was again moved by their kindness! My wife did not think this was such a big deal. They are part of the group she said it is normal to be helpful with friends and band members. Hmmm. The conga player from the States I spoke with does not want to do any playing unless he is getting paid, not only for playing but for rehearsal. An old band member who is American minded, but born in Japan did not want to travel to my end of Osaka to do a free show with an old band we played with because he was not getting paid. I always thought is strange that I had to pay part of the band’s studio fee when we had rehearsal, when the band was named after one person the leader. In my mind being from the states, I was working for him, so he should pay for the studio space. It was all about him, not “the Band” I did, but I was not pleased about it and went along with the group. So yeah I do find the group support without question different.

I am over-whelmed by the kindness of these Japanese musicians to just help with no immediate sight of profit. Just for the love of music and playing, I am impressed.
It will be a month before we get to actually play together. I am looking forward to it!

Kute N Kool @ The House of Jazz

It had been a while since to went to the House of Jazz. This was in fact only my second time. It was a lot less crowded than the last time. It was a combo audition fro the Sakai Festival and a Jam session before. So a lot of people came. Tonight I guess it was just the regular crowd. It was run pretty well. They all have pretty much the same format. You sign in and get called up and matched up with others to make up the group. I do not know if you can asked to be matched up with certain people. I would guess so, why not, but this is Japan.  I think I have seen it done.

When I arrived and got first called up I was matched with  Toru-san the Mandolin player, and JoJo-san, and Matsuo from my beginnings Japan band. I did not do the songs I had planned. It did not seem right for the night. So known, easy songs , was the theme for the night.

I think I was called up 3 or 4 times during the evening, each session was two songs. So I got to play more than @ of the other sessions I have done, unless a slow night. Maybe this was a slow night as well…

My one bummer for the evening, not a big deal, but something to be figured in is the entry cost. Chicago Rock is 10.00 including a drink. The Redhouse is 10.00 plus a drink, Overheat is the same. House of Jazz is 15.00 including one drink. He is the thing with them, at least for me. They do not have something I drink. No WIne, No Sake, No Shochu, No brandy. Mostly whiskey or Vodka, Scotch, yuk. My choice, drink nothing, but still, pay for it, or pick a different drink. That night I chose to not drink and just suck up the cost. I am not a big drinker anyway, so what I do I am choosey.

JoJo-san and I played together for the whole night. Another time with another band, someone called us Cute and Cool. This came about because of how we dressed. I thought it was an interesting name. My wife says I should get with JoJo-san as an act. We would be interesting. So that is how the name came about. I used it jokingly on the video I made of us. So yeah, the other band, Saki will not be entering the Sakai Blues festival next year. JoJo-san asked the leader. He said the leader Ben-san head was not right so no entry. So he would play with me at the Festival. Ok So now I am set up with a keyboard player. I figured out something from last night on why I like Minami-san the other keyboard player for most of my stuff. He does not overplay. When we have a rehearsal for the festival I will need to have him leave more “white” space in his playing on my songs. When it is time for his solo he can go nuts.

Usually when at these sessions since the early days of Mosrite in Kobe I stick with Playing Bass, singing and Harp, or whatever is needed of those. At tonight session I got a little bold and sat in on a song on Keyboards. I messed up of course, but it is a Jam session. Looseness and errors are part of the makeup. It was fun, it was surprising to several people, including me for getting up and doing it.

On the ride back home the Mandolin player Toru-san says it was the first time he has seen me on keyboard. He did not know I played. Hahah I laughed a bit and told him I was working on a solo set with me just on keyboard and all the rest I put on a looper. I said what I was most concerned about was not being able to joke around with the customers. which I see is a normal thing here with the live house shows. He said Many players come here from the States and do not speak any Japanese. Many will try to understand, but it does not really matter. I heard it is “part of the show the experience for them to hear English even if they do not understand” Ok, so I feel better and will go forward with getting a spot at Chicago Rock, solo.

Snafkin Beach Concert

 

Snafkin beach concerts

 
This is my fourth, I believe concert at the beach invite. There is never any money in it for me. In fact I have to pay for the sound techs. It is only 10.00 and it is worth it not to be concern about the sound or equipment. I suppose it is good exposure. Although I usually do not play in this area, still it maybe helpful at some point. Even if it is just practice. It is really more of a live practice for me, and to honor the old master of Snafkin who passed away. If not for him and the cafe there are several people I would not have met or each other. Every year I have different people playing with me. Except for the keyboard player who I have done three of these with, plus other venues. I enjoy playing with him, I like his style. Jazzy but can be funky and not overdone. I will post a link to him ( Minami- san) and another keyboardist ( Jo-san ) I work with, you can compare styles and give me some feedback on me doing the same song with different players.
 
A new player this year with me is Toru-san, he speaks English and plays Mandolin. We have played several times and locations together and at Snafkin twice. Nice guy, and a good player. I have been constantly, in the back of my mind thinking of forming a group maybe to the Blues festival in Sakai next year and including him. I have had my eye on him, a woman drummer who I worked with just last week, and maybe a Sax player who has been developing over the last few years. He is a student of my favorite local Sax player. I went to a session just the other day and we got to play together for the first time. I asked him years ago to play with me at the beach concert, but he declined saying he could not. He did not feel ready and could only play what was written not from his mind and heart. I have noticed he is with a couple of bands now so and he sounded ok the other night when we Jammed at the Redhouse. I liked his sound much much better than the new Sax player with JoJo-san band. He sounds out of tune.
 

I am sort of torn about the Sakai festival next year, putting the band together is not a big deal but asking the keyboard player is. Jo-san is a good blues player and my friend. He has gotten me several gigs with bands he has played with, but he is so popular and a music whore and usually plays with several bands at the festival. However Minami-san’s Jazz playing is more pleasing to me, cleaner, but maybe he is busy, or maybe Jo-san will be offended I did not ask him. I will need to give it more thought I have time.

Just as I finished writing this and took a break, I received a message from a Sax/Flute/Clarinet player in Taiwan. He wants to enter the Sakai festival with his group. He sent me a link to the page. It seems I do not have that much time to decide, I need to make some moves now I have two months in which to enter.

Every time I take a break from writing a post, which is usually not done all at once. Something changes. Life is like that, impermanence in everything. So I am speaking with JoJo-san about our bands and playing in the Sakai festival. I did not directly ask but he said he would join if our other band is not playing, although he is playing with several other bands. So if the Seiki Band is not playing he will be my keyboard man for the festival. If Seiki band is playing then, I will ask Minami-san to play keys or someone else I have in mind.

I am looking at a line up of Keyboard, Bass, Drums, Percussion, Sax, Mandolin, maybe a guitar. Depending on who…

Just breaking news. I have a great Jazz player Sax player visiting from Taiwan joining me, a friend of his a female jazz guitarist. The Local Sax player said he could not do it. He is working with three bands and has a heart condition that limits his activities, and he is working those days. My friend the she-drummer from Jojo-san’s band and my friend the Mandolin player have agreed to join me. Plus another new band maybe forming an all Gaijin band for this with some serious players from Kobe

Ok, so yeah, back to the concert, because all that other is just music ideas in space to come.

Day of the Concert. I was asked to be there about 11:00 am for a meeting asked for by the Keyboard player. I arrived just after 11:00. I did my greetings upon arrival to those I knew, which I encountered. It was nice to see some old faces. There was no meeting until much later. No matter I settled in. It was fortunate the weather was good. Hot but not too bad, the day before there was a lot of rain, today it was just partly cloudy. We got lucky.

I watched and photographed some of the acts in front of us and just hung out. I chatted a bit with Mandolin player and a few others in Eglish and Japanese. The Keyboard player came over at one point and we went through the songs listing and arrangements. Finally, it was our time. I did a minimal amount of talking and intro’d the band. We start off with a song by the Crusaders. A one bummer I forgot to say, there was no drummer. I wish I had put more thought into asking. Minami-san had said at first the guy from last year would be the “beat keeper” on his “Cajon”. Anyway, I wish I had followed through with my thought of bringing my “BeatBuddy”. So crap there was no drummer. We struggled through our first song. It is not an easy piece and we played that to start with no warmup nothing. I knew it was weak though and did not want to end weak. We stumbled through it. Next song up a Blues. The Mandolin player was going to sing. He liked that song so I asked him to sing. He changed cord structure to something different than I am used to playing. Again we stumbled through it most of the time. After relaxing into it more and getting more warmed up by my Harmonica solo time, we sounded ok. Although a bit sloppy at the end. Later the Mandolin player said he was very nervous.

Now at the third song, I was at the lead again, this time an R&B by Stevie Wonder. We are all warmed-up by now and it is not a tricky song. We did well. At the last song, we did Stand by Me. It is a popular song and many out watching sang along on the chorus. At this point, we sounded good. So at least we finished strong.

Still, I was unpleased with the first two songs, we so sounded weak. I felt a little bad. As I was putting my gear away I was listening to the next group. They stumbled much more than we did starting off. I felt bad for them, at the same time, not so bad for us. Our nature I guess to feel not as bad about our suffering when we see others suffer more.

After some hanging out, pictures, chit chat, and lunch that I brought along, Toru-san and I head back to our part of town. He lives close by me. in the next town over. We talked a bit on the train home and decided to meet up again at the House of Jazz Blues Jam on this coming Sat.

…and the beat goes on…