Monday, May 5, 2008
One inch wide; two miles deep; the Japanese mind
So says my friend Andrew Morse, who fancies himself a journalist.
Morse gave me an awesome tour of Tokyo, including a series of small bars in districts tourists rarely find. The bars seat nine or 10 people, and each has a specialized theme.
We saw three that did nothing but play blues music; one that only played the music of the Who; one that just played old jazz on vinyl records.
They were glorious, my favorite things about the spotless, thriving city of 12 million. You could walk in and communicate with music, the universal language, even when there was no common verbal language.
At one bar called Bar Comforts, the owner picked up a guitar and jammed with me on harmonica. All by telepathy. Then, he played the music of harmonica player Little Walter, on whom he was an expert.
That's when Morse made his comment about the Japanese mind.
"He won't know other music. He won't know rock, or reggae. But he will know everything about the blues. And maybe just a small piece of the blues, like 1938. But he will know everything about that. One inch wide, two miles deep."
I had some further proof of the Japanese love for music when I visited Tower Records there (it survives there; Japanese still buy disks and don't steal the music with downloads). There were two obscure Delta Groove albums I wrote bios and liner notes for, displayed prominently: "Command Performance," by the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Band; and "We Can Be Together," by Sean Costello, who died in mid April.
I've never seen them displayed stateside and had to buy them with the Japanese writing. I can't believe I had to travel 9,000 miles to find some great Delta blues.
I'll take the two miles deep, if it means that you get into what you are into with this kind of passion. Even, if it means you have to dress up like the Mariachi on this page.
(PS: I'll be at the Blues Awards in Memphis Thursday, with Delta Groove artists Jason Ricci, Jackie Payne and Steve Edmonson.)