Thursday, May 21, 2009

Doing Japan - Keezer style

Been in Japan all week, performing in Tokyo and Osaka with legendary septuagenarian jazz guitarist Jim Hall, along with Ron Carter and Steve LaSpina on bass, Greg Osby on sax, Terry Clarke on drums and a string section of not-unattractive Japanese women with names like "Crusher" Kimura - naturally leading us to assign similar provocative nicknames to the other girls, which for the sake of decency I shall refrain from listing here. Annnnywayy, the Tokyo concerts were very nice and I'm looking forward to our third and final show here in Osaka tomorrow.

Today, I spent my day off in Osaka visiting my good friend Yasukatsu Oshima and his wife Miki. Yasukatsu and I made a recording a couple years ago of traditional Okinawan folk songs. Oshima lives in a lovely little town called Nishinomiya, nestled between the major centers of Osaka and Kobe. From his house, we hiked up a steeep (extra 'e' added for emphasis) mountain trail to a lush botanical garden, then caught a bus the rest of the way up the slope to Arima Onsen, a famous hot spring resort town. In case you don't know, I'm obsessed with hot springs, making a point to go to one (or more) anytime I'm within an eight hour train ride in any direction.

In fact, the only two times I can recall ever being recognized in public were both at hot spring resorts, and both times I was stark naked. Once was in California - I was toweling off and a fan came up and said "You sounded great at Yoshi's last night." Uhhh... thanks. The other was even weirder. I was deep in the mountains of Yamagata, Japan, miles from civilization or underwear, and I was perched on a rock, my business boldly exposed and swinging like
A) the Count Basie band during a late-night set
B) Tarzan on his way to Jane's house
C) Babe Ruth's custom model R-43 in the 1928 World Series
D) "Yeah sure, honey, keep dreaming" (my wife)
I see a pair of eyes, alligator-like, slowly moving toward me through the murky, bubbling sulfuric water. Suddenly the man jumps up, points (at my face, thank you) and says "JEFU KEEZAA! JEFU KEEZAA!". eek. Turns out he was a trombone player I went to Berklee with.

After our brief dip in the onsen, we went to eat "takoyaki", which literally translates as "octopus balls". Mmmm. Actually they're quite good - little pieces of octopus surrounded by golf ball-sized dollops of gooey pancake batter that come steaming off the grill at 9,800 degrees Fahrenheit, the approximate surface temperature of the Sun. Word to the wise, have plenty of beer and/or an asbestos suit on hand.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it. More road adventures to come, I'm sure....


  1. I'm thinking you should write a book about your musical/travel adventures. BTW: A-D - TMI, but hilarious.

  2. A consummate musician AND accomplished writer, you are indeed multi-talented. Received Aurea in the mail and LOVE it - well done!

  3. Great story!

    I've just discovered this blog now but you can't on my following it from now on!

    – A Ryukyuan music fan from France.

  4. Of course I meant: "you can count on my following from now on".