Shoehorn in Japan, Fall 2008

My wife Kurumi and I took our kids to her hometown of Kyoto, Japan where she exhibited her artwork at Gallery Shirakawa for the first ten days of November. We got there a week early to set things up. I was able to check out the tap scene right away when I performed with Sam and his trio at the Trank Room in Kyoto. Sam was fascinated by my special lightweight ( the tappercussion superlight tap instrument) which I had carried with me to make sure I could get my tap sound. A couple of days later I performed at a banquet for the Kyoto Lion's Club with Mari Fujibayashi of the international tap duo Tappage, a friend of mine from the tap circuit. We had previously performed on the same bill in concerts and festivals in New York and Russia. This was different, as we had never actually done an act together. Her sister Yuri played the piano and I sang, played sax and tapped while Mari tapped. It was great fun and the audience loved us. The following week I taught a rhythm tap workshop to Mari's Kyoto students, which was also very fruitful. After playing at Kurumi's opening I headed down to the Tokyo area, staying with an old buddy, Grego, and his wife and ferrets. I made it to the Thursday tap jam at Ance Yoyogi, which was very cool and where I was able to meet some more of Japan's young tap talent and some friends of friends. They dug what I had to offer. Friday I headed out to Yokohama to play on Isezaki-cho, where I used to busk a lot back in the day. It has become quite popular with younger Japanese performers in recent years. The area was a hub of jazz in post-war Japan, and the song Isezaki-cho Blues is included on my latest CD, Cafe Cirque. Mrs. Okubo showed up along with Mr. Mori the photographer and Mr. Ikuo Mitsuhashi, founder of the Mogongekki Company and also of the Noge Daidoge Festival. We met later at Papa John, the fantastic watering hole in Noge with it's priceless collection of modern jazz and enka LPs. Papa John, the colorful and hard-working bar master recently passed, may he rest in peace. He was a real character! His son has taken over. Papa John is one of those unique little joints that can never be replicated any where else. I offer a toast to it's continued success! The next day I hooked up with my old pal Andy Matsukami, aka Kento Freaky, a very talented drummer, rhythm dancer, singer, comedian and sound effects guy. I later joined him for an impromptu set at rock gig at an English pub called What the Dickens in Ebisu. That was really a blast as this guy is a great improviser and seamlessly weaves comic notions into tap, scat singing, beat boxing and drumming. I played sax and tapped. The finale of the Tokyo area trip was a visit to the CAN English School, at a party for me hosted by Mr. David Claypatch aka Zat Amazing Guy. There were many friends there old and new, including Okubo-san from Yokohama and David Ramsay, plus Guts and Yoko of Sublimit, whom I had worked with in Toronto earlier this year. By the time I got back to Portland after security checks/annoyance galore and hours of trains ,planes and automobiles, I was happy to be home. I really over-taxed myself hauling my sax and tap boards through the Tokyo train system for 4 days, but I had to represent! I love Japan.

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