Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Halloween weekend

Last summer I got in touch with Roger Walch, in the hopes of tracking down the three films which compose his "Kyoto Trilogy." I'd thought he lived in Switzerland, but was pleasantly surprised to find that he lives here in the Kyo. Even better was that he was playing a gig in town. I was happy to go.

Let me interject quickly that this was one of my patented marathon days. In the morning, I'd had breakfast with MatsuMiki and friends, followed by a short KJ meeting. The afternoon was split between a lecture on traditional weaving in Nishijin, and a stoll around Koetsu-ji with E-Ma Eric. So by the time I got to the show, held in a small gallery, I was slightly beat. But the tone of the music was a further surprise. Simple, light trad jazz played on piano and shakuhachi.

I filled a plastic cup with red wine, found a space on the tatami, and proceeded to "get lost", using the music as my vessel, rather than chemicals ala Chet Baker. Roger was simply a master on the keyboard, as skilled there as he is as a writer and filmmaker. He's played in many bands and is at home in many styles. Tonight's set gave him space to shine, handling well even the technically difficult Monk and Miles stuff. At one point, he was walking eighths on a blues piece in 7/4. I didn't even know that that was mathematically possible.
Matsumoto Taro on shakuhachi further amazed. In the spirit of Halloween a true chameleon: playing his lines like he was on soprano sax, bobbing and weaving like a prizefighter, yet looking rockabilly in black threads and pompadour. I too play shak, and find synchronizing with other musicians on Western tunes challenging. But Taro avoided this limitation by changing flutes on every tune, choosing from a veritable forest of different lengths and pitches. And while he might unavoidably sound a bit flat on a familiar classic like, "Porkpie Hat," it still came across well. And there was no doubt of his classical Japanese music training too, especially the flurry of trills and violence on his arrangement of the "Zatoichi" theme. His zanshin at the end of each piece was so suspenseful that the audience too would join him in holding our breath.

It was still early as the gig finished, so I decided to catch Mandala at El Latino's Halloween party. They were great as usual but after the first set I felt that I needed to escape the people and the smoke. MatsuMiki and I wandered off to Kurotani, up the hill and through the graves to find a quiet spot to sit and look over the lights of the city, talking about those things that couples talk about when they are in love and that love is still new.

On the turntable: "Putumayo, Women of the World"

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