The Beat…

Sakai Blues fest
I was sitting here thinking, what I have done that needs to be updated in this tale of wind in the land rising sun. I sort of lost track, thinking it was not much. But nay! This lacks full truth as I have been quite busy with this and, that mode of music. First there was the Sakai Blues festival. Sakai is a small city between here and downtown Osaka. I rarely go there but go past it via train somewhat often. This yearly event in the Blues World here is a big deal. LZ had off that day and decided to come along for something different.
We arrived at the show area and try to figure out where we needs to go. We head for the main stage area to get some directions. The event was spread out over a large block area, under different venues. The “Names” where on the main stage. We in some out of the way spot indoors. I am thinking like a mall corner, or entrance some thing like that. It was however a little downstairs bar.
Very compact, we found sitting spots for the group, which included, the rarely comes out drummer, LZ, the Doc and his girl friend, the new piano player, and the Doc’s ninety yr old mother. Oh wait I miss something. We had to find these seats outside, there were a few stools, which were given to us or something. The bar-room was so small, with a band, and 15 people it was packed! Including standing room. 
So groups came and groups went each with their followers. Shock! we had a few, two be be exact that did not come with us. Perhaps they knew others all well. Anyway our turn finally came, the placed was packed, we got rushed. It always sucks when one has to do that. It is better to play one less song rather than rush to get started. Well it took me longer to setup, and get power to stuff, the Doc starts anyway. I am finally adjusted by the staff and setup, and join in the way-to-loud frey. 😦 
This was not going well. Still the band played on. We got through the set. After the last song the Doc says, oh, I forgot to let you sing. I waved it off, I really did not care and had no attachment to the thought, nor how we sounded. We packed up and moved out.

The Doc’s 90 yr old treated the group and followers to lunch. She is a very healthy, mentally sharp old lady. She looks late 70’s not 90! Anyway that was a nice gesture.

Sakai blues lunch


After lunch we all split up and headed home.

Overheat Blues Jam host

The Doc tells me, we have been given a spot as “host” for a Blues music jam at Overheat. I say ok l can attend. I am thinking, ok we are host, so i figure we get in free an perhaps, maybe a cut of the door. This I am thinking since we play for 3 hours…. More on this later.
Unlike last time I knew what to expect, so I took my spot on stage and made ready. I was the first one there. The Doc rushes in later and jumps right on. There is some guy who I could tell was iching to play with us. He gave me his card, he was a vocalist and harp player. It took him a while to register I did the same. He seemed a bit surprised when it clicked from seeing all the harmonicas in the case right in front of me. I made my usual mental note of not playing much when there is another harp player sitting in. I tend let the visitor have some space is my feeling of non-competition. He was very gracious about giving me a turn at the leads. Nice guy, much better “front man” then the Doc. He had a couple of others with him who joined us also along with some later drop ins. 
It was a fairly long evening, but it was kind of fun, for a change. With the other guy calling up songs that he knew I got to play some different tunes, arrangements over the Doc’ s favorites. That was fun.
So after it was over, there was no talk of money or anything. There was a mention of did I have train fare? I said yeah I am good with that, and nothing else was said. Hmmmm, I thought, but did not attach to the thought. 
The other day, I am asked if I am free on the first Weds of every month, the owner wanted to give us that spot as hosts for a blues jam. Hm mm ok, I say. There is something said by the drummer about hosting. I speak on that about. Just what does this hosting mean? The host gets in free and everyone else pays, The host gets paid something? The Doc say, yes mostly, that is what generally happens but for us in this case we still have to pay the entrance fee and do not get paid! ehhh I say! WTF?. There is some comment about using the club’s equipment. I am all lit up now. I say I refuse to do it. I will not whore myself out for three hours to make money for some club owner and on top of that pay to have this insult! If you do not have respect for your talents, skills, time and effort, no one else will! This is not some 30/45 min showcasing, or donation thing. This guy is making money off of my 4 hours of work and changing me to make money for him. I am not happy! Oh hells no I will not comply!!!
After some time to chill out, I listened to the plea of doing the hosting. My expenses would be covered. I caved on the refusal to do it stance, however only for this time, since I had said I would earlier, and it has already been advertised, I would be there. Being clear, I say, I am only doing it this time, I am not doing this hosting scam again without getting paid!  

Ozaki Jazz Society

The monthly Jazz group gathering, this time I invited my Kyudo sempai. I figured it would be good practice for them in front of the group also, there was good food and entertainment. The people are relaxed and everyone will enjoy the shakuhachi played under Jazz conditions. 
Again LZ came out for the mission, her first time here. The managers were delight to meet her finally. She was surprised at the high level of the playing talent! I said, mostly tonight, but there are all levels here. My sempais were very nervous finally it was our turn. It took me the longest to get ready, I was trying to get everyone and things on the same page. I did not get the outside join-in from the house faces I wanted, but we made do. The first song was “My Way”, I told the sempai, breathe and focus, like doing Kyudo. We started, it mostly well. My concern was the the key pitch was a bit high for me these days, without being warmed up …a lot. Sure enough I could hear my voice cracking on some parts in the high range. Oh well. Not my best performance, but oh, well. I tried, I learned, re-learned, remembered a lesson…
Next up “Take Five” a mid tempo Jazz piece. Both sempai were really concerned about this piece. My hard part was done, not great but done. Now just playing. We started The song, I could not hear well what was going on clearly. We had a club member join in on guitar. We did this well, other than some volume, as in too soft for the classical guitar, and shakuhachi, it should have had a mic adjustment, and drummer should have used brushes , not sticks, and a bit rushed in places, type of let down. Turns out there is a vid off that song I got from one of the members.

The night went on, we ate, drank a little. I got called up to sit in on a couple of songs bass and harmonica, and volunteered singing on another. After a while I was asked to do another song. I agreed to a last one. I had something new to try on an older song. Fairly simple, easy groove, simple change, simple arrangement. I had none of my regular sit-in players tonight, not as planned but rolled with it. I also asked the upright Bass player to join in. I wanted to try two basses on this tune. Things did not start well. The drummer could not find the beat. The one he chose finally was sort of lame. The Bass player could not find a groove with the organ player who was also sort of lost on finding a groove. Somewhere, someone was hitting a wrong note/cord, something, loudly it was throwing me way off. I thought it was me, or?? Anyway, it did not go well in my eyes/ears.
I rolled on, under the said conditions tried the make the best of it. Then came the ending and it completely fell apart. Large sigh and oh well. I learned something…these players, have good technical skills, but no groove, sense. Jimi Hendrix once said ” anyone can play the blues, but not everyone can “feel” the blues.” Well it is ok, now I know better what kind of songs to pick t play with them, and it is a good venue for me to practice a different type of vocals.
We pack it in the the night shortly afterwards. Everyone had a good time seemed like. LZ says on the ride home… You must feel like a real outsider there. Not really your style, ne. The kaicho said you have your own world with your music. I said yeah, not really my spot. I can do stuff, but I am making it blend rather than having it naturally fit. LZ says, your style is more funky, groove kind. These players here are mostly technical. The Blues with the Doc, is not really it either. Yeah, I said. I am still a seeker. I have the idea just not the players. I do like the folks at Snafkin who I am suppose to do the concert with, like their playing, we do have groove.
Snafkin…the birth of the Kaze Band
I received a note from the owners of Snafkin. I am scheduled to do a concert for something they are putting on. They wanted to know what songs I wanted to do. It had been stated earlier that I could have the keyboard player and Bassist from Iyo-san’s band play with me, if I wanted. I said cool! Also a drummer was available, I had not met him, but I heard he was good. Also I hit up my friend who plays Sansen ( Okinawa Shamisen) to join. She had never done anything like this so was kind of nervous, besides being surprised I asked her to join.
It was arranged to meet at Snafkin this past Sat, since Iyo-san band was playing I could get with them and my Friend Miyaki-san for a rehearsal.
I showed up close to when I figured they would have a break or be finished their set. We talked a bit to get some direction. Miyaki-san the Sansen player just wanted to record what we were doing and practice some at home before she went public. Ok, not what I wanted cause I wanted to hear the sound, other than in my head, with her playing. However, I just flowed with it and the bass player and keyboardist and I went through the songs. The first was a little shaky starting, but we got the groove and it went well. The second song, went much better from the beginning as they were already familiar with it basically. It turned out way way better than the other night with the Jazz group I recorded both songs and put together a sample here…

This was an unofficial rehearsal, the real deal comes June 4. I am looking forward to see how this sounds with the full group. I may play Shakuhachi a little on the second song, I have an arrangement in mind. I have to see how my practice goes over the next couple of weeks, playing along with the recording. I am looking forward to this project.
LZ heard the recording of the band as it stood. She said much better! She said it sound like a “group” everyone listening to what everyone is playing and trying to match, instead of everyone just out for themselves. I was surprised at her insight. She hit it right on! I once told my kung fu brother who asked about playing with others. I said jamming, playing with other people is a lot like doing “Push Hands” in Tai Chi. You have to listen, then blend.
Bamboo n String trio
This is my Shakuhachi Sensei’s group. I have been told we have another concert booking late in June. I do not know what it is for, no matter I guess. I was also informed there was no money involved. That also is no big deal. I am not all about money as perhaps the Doc from the blues band is thinking. I am not, unless it is playing for more than 1 hour for someone else that is not a charity to make money. Anyway the Trio is not really exciting, but it is good to play other music and get out in public.
While writing this I see I did not cover the concert we just finished a week so so ago. We played at a local cultural center, I guess it is. There were about 30 or so people who attended. Sensei is a good MC, he made a few jokes, gave some background on the Shakuhachi, etc. We did a small variety of songs, including some sing alongs with the attendees.

The one part I did not like so much is him wanting me to stand and sing “My Way”. That really put me on the front line, being sort of shy I did not care for that. However as always I rolled with it. I was glad when that part was over and I could just stay in the background..sort of.


After it was over I got to meet one of Sensei’s other Shakuhachi students. I was surprised he spoke some English. He seemed like nice guy, my Sempai 🙂

Please feel free to leave some feedback on the videos. It is hard to get constructive feedback. I asked a couple of people in the past and no one want to say anything bad a guess. One grows by facing faults not hiding from them. As in Sitting Chan/Zen, one faces your true self when meditating, the good , the bad and the ugly. This is how one improves, grows, facing demons.

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