The Blue Note – Tokyo – 2014

The Blue Note Tokyo – 2014

This was a wonderful trip to Tokyo and the Blue Note.

Two consecutive nights of two shows each night has always been testy for me. That’s a lot of singing. So it’s always with some nervousness that I head for Japan and the Blue Note. But this time I walked on stage just 7 short weeks after a really important back surgery. And the conclusion is that it was a wonderful two nights.

Two extraordinary things happened. My band was on point as usual and it would be impossible for me to get to first base without them. But Arno Lucas, a percussionist who now lives 8-10 months of the year in Tokyo, playing and writing with Japanese artists, joined us on stage both nights. What he brought to me and the band and the audience was new and refreshing. Now mind you, Arno had played in my band for four plus years long ago but on these two nights it was seemed like he never left. But it also felt like he did leave and had returned with exciting gifts in a big sack. It was uplifting for the band and me and most certainly for the audience who rarely sees such and exciting performance from a percussionist. In fact, we began each of the four shows with Arno walking on from the side of the stage with me playing and percussively vocalizing some real exciting tambourine as we played a half version of Weather Report’s “Teen Town”. The original writing by Zawinul and Pastorius is so inventive and compelling that very few musical organizations even attempt it. So this audience of “jazzers” was immediately knocked on their butts when they heard the opening ethereal phrases of this new classic. A percussive bombshell. We’ve played this before but everything changed with Arno accompanying me on stage shouting and screaming and playing tambourine.

The audience, the second extraordinary component in this story, brought their own instruments. Their voices for sure, but this other thing that’s called joy and spirit and laughing-smiling expectation that in itself is a game changer. I know I am absolutely certain that I’ve mentioned this thing that audiences bring which I’ve sometimes referred to as fellowship and church. I suppose that’s a heady and lofty description of things but it is in fact what’s going on when you see an audience sing and respond to everybody from Taylor Swift to Bruce Springsteen. If you’ve ever sat in the middle of it you know what I’m talking about. And those of who know the Reverend Franklin Experience (Aretha’s father) and the Baptist church know exactly what I’m talking about. What a great description.

Joe Turano had put together a great collection of songs that gingerly avoided “Take Five”, “After All”, and “The Midnight Sun” (every night staples in our show). This opened up a space for some things from the new George Duke tribute CD and it all worked. A lesson learned.

I loved talking to the audience about their special Japanese bonsai and origami spirit and love for intricate and intimate detail which has made them serious fans of lots of western music, such as classical, jazz, blues, and country (with classical and jazz leading the way with detailed precision). And any of you who have ever seen a bonsai tree or an origami bird know what I’m talking about.

Maybe in short we can say there was a coming together of the old and new to create yet a new experience for the band and the audience. I won’t belabor that description.

I’m personally delighted to see the band and our little family was just laughing and grinning and thinking we had a wonderful outing in Japan. Just suffice to say how much I am thanking all my longtime Japanese friends for continuing to actively listen and show up to enjoy and support my music. What a Christmas present! Arno, too!

Thank you, Tokyo!



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