Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Easter with the Flying Dugong Band

...fresh from the temples of Nishiyama, I shifted gears and headed back to Kyoto, to meet up with Michael and catch Donal Lunny's gig at TakuTaku (now non-smoking!). I only knew Donal as the husband of Soul Flower's Itami Hideko (and ex- of Sinead O'Conner), he having appeared with that group on a smoking live CD. (Soul Flower's Nakagawa Takashi was also in the house tonight.) Now living in Okinawa, he had some wonderful musicians in tow. The incredible Umezu Kazutoki shifted from clarinet to tin whistle to a bass clarinet that growled underneath everything like a didge. Umezu is a brilliant entertainer, his wit and talent far greater than the diminutive packaging. In probably the highlight of the night, he wandered through the crowd blasting away on alto sax, eventually returning to the stage where he stuck his clarinet in his mouth, playing both in perfect harmony. Throughout the trad Irish pieces, he'd pull out these perfect, light flourishes. Kaneko Aska's violin playing was top notch, and had a voice suitable to both singing and scat. Donal himself seemed happy to just sit back on rhythm, letting Aska's fiddle and Umezu's reeds do all the work. These two kept up a wonderful musical conversation, riffing back and forth, two top players birthing some marvelous sounds. It's rare to see such communication outside of after-hours jam sessions. The dead weight to me was the percussion player, sitting there with her perpetual hangdog expression under floppy Huck Finn hat. She alternated between a djembe that didn't quite fit, and a bohdrain that did fit, though she didn't seem comfortable on it, playing quietly and nearly indistinct. From my seated perspective, she was on the opposite side of a wide beam than the others, and at times I felt like I was watching two different gigs. Through it all Donal was Donal, playing his bouzouki as if teaching it a lesson, staring down at the fretboard while thwacking out the chords. The encore was the shortest I've ever seen, a quick two minute Irish reel, to which some codger in the front row danced katcharsee-style, with all the usual free-form arm waving. That summed it up for me, a nice blend of Okinawan and Irish, not difficult since both styles share a certain energy and structure, as well as a somewhat parallel history as colonies to larger island nations which in turn look insecurely toward the mainland. Some may have found the set a little slow (with a few numbers going on far too long), but it suited my mood perfectly, wanting simply to sip a beer and chill, with the obligatory moments of foot-tapping. Cheers to Michael for turning me on to this gig (he double dips here and here).

At the end of the day though, it ain't quite an Irish gig without Guinness.

On the turntable: Lambchop, "Aw C'Mon"

On the nighttable: Badiner/Grey, "Zig Zag Zen"

On the reel table: "Okaasan" (Naruse, 1951)


Anonymous said...

Oh how jealous I am about this concert. Any inside info when they might have a concert in Tokyo?

I saw Kaneko Aska and her quartet performed with Carlos Nunez at NHK hall a couple of years ago. She is such a delight on the fiddle.

Can't remember if Donal Lunny performed with the Chieftains or not at the last concert I went to, but I recall having seen him performed once and he was so fluid on the bouzouki.

Anyways... am going to leave you a Youtube clip of Aska Kaneko and Gaia Cuatro on FB.

Edward J. Taylor said...

Alas, I wrote this yesterday but didn't post until today. Had I done so, you could've seen their Tokyo gig last night. Sorry dude...

I'll buy you a beer at GW as an apology.

Anonymous said...

Sad I am. OK, the beer is on you at GW. :)

Michael Lambe said...

Cheers to you my friend for coming along with me! We must do it again soon! Let me know about that "Sweet Strings" thingy.

Edward J. Taylor said...

Looking forward to it, and to the shakuhachi thing. I'll be on the lookout for things to italicize about.