Billboard Live; Tokyo and Osaka, Japan–January 2014

There are still several places you can go in the world that have preserved the niceties and civilities associated with very old cultures. Japan is one of those places. Immediately when we arrived at the airport in Tokyo we were greeted by our Billboard Live host of recent years named Kumi. She greeted us with a big bow and a bigger smile, and off we were from the airport to the hotel. We were all very happy to find our beds after a 10 hour flight and a 17 hour time change. We were ready to get some rest before we hit it hard the next day.

And boy did the next day get there fast! The afternoon rolled around and we all went to the venue, where I have played 3 or 4 times before. It occurred to me as I was preparing for soundcheck, “This must be my 35th year coming to Japan.” I came here first in 1979, brought in by one of the great early promoters of Jazz in Japan, Tats Nagashima. Even many years before me, he had brought Nat King Cole, which opened a flood of other Western artists. In those 35 years, I must have visited just as many times, and my audience is still very faithful. I love playing for them.

Joe Turano and I got together in Los Angeles last week to work out a set for the Tokyo crowd. The plan was a rigorous 2-shows-per-night, 3 nights out of 4, with a live on air performance the second night. So, of course, we wanted to make it special. We opened strong with Boogie Down, and burned straight through into Mornin’. I love that start. It really announces that, hey, we came to party. And the people came right along with us.

It’s hard to condense 4 shows into one write up like this, especially when we are playing live music that is not “canned,” that is fresh and new for the audience. So many wonderful things happened, so many wonderful faces in the audience seeing and feeling and experiencing and sharing these moments that are being created right now on stage. There was one group of four women in the front row in each of the Tokyo shows, and then two of them even showed up in Osaka! True superfans—Jarreauniacs! Thank you, Kaori, Kumiko, and the rest of you! It was great having such enthusiasm right in the front row.

With a bit of lament in our feelings we’ve come to accept these 2-show per night gigs in Japan during the last 15 years… “Big Club” situations. Perhaps we’ve become spoiled by a single-performance concert evening. Surely for Jazz and pop, etc., the longer tradition has been a 3 set per night gig. The essential difference is in intensity of performance over the evening. In a concert performance, it’s blood, sweat, and tears the whole time. No stone is unturned, and it’s a maxed out event. That approach is unworkable in a two-set evening. Certainly not three sets. BUT. The expectations of management and listeners are exactly the same as a single-show concert night. But twice. These are the changing realities in the world of available work. So when you’ve decided that you want to work and you’re going to work, you make the adjustment, gird your loins, and go forth into the fray.

I was remarking to myself and Patrick with joy and wonderment about how the folks in the audience during all six performances sang in unison on the bridge to Mornin’. This is not just an “Oo, shoobeedoo, the sky is blue” sort of lyric. Especially being that these ideas are happening in a second language. But there they were, apparently understanding it, and singing every word. And enjoying the completed thought and notion.

This is a tough time of the year anywhere for concerts, and ticket sales. Everybody’s just crossed over from Christmas into new years, and their pockets are not as full. So we have to be happy that Billboard thought we could draw some people. And we did.

During all six performances, the band setup was close and cozy. This makes for a real recognizable intimate communication inside of the band. This excitement and electric communication onstage is tangible for the audience. It’s one of the great extras of working in the club situation.

There are niceties that transpire between people in Japanese culture that are wonderful and delicate traditions of kindness and courtesy that are a wonder to behold. Gift giving! Not expensive gifts, but just a little comment that says, “Before you arrived, I was thinking about you. And I wanted you to have these little cloth napkins that we use.” Or “… this special pair of chopsticks.” Or “… a little toy. Toss the ball on a string into the cup.” Oh, the sun will surely rise in the morning without these little pleasantries between people. But. This is a long way from the “Fonz” approach. I love it.

This kind of attention to detail is everywhere. It’s the tea service tradition, the delicate bonsai tree groomed just so, and enormous pride in your work… Taxi driver, house keeper, Billboard Live staff.

So we really mean it when we say, “Let’s do it again soon.”

Thank you,

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