Hey there, CDG Fans!
I'm back from Japan and had a pretty good little tour with the venerable John McKnight with me on drums and Yoshi Ogasahara on bass. The pairing up of John and the omnipotent Yoshi made for a positive combination. Both guys learned from each other and it worked well (it was also a fun ride for me as I got to climb onto their 'rhythm rocket'!)...
11/1/13: We arrived in Fukuoka, Japan, after an all-day flight from Atlanta (about 24 hours). John wan't used to long flights like I am and retired to the hotel. Yoshi and I bid John goodnight and ventured out into the Fukuoka nightlife for a few hours. We had a quick meal after saying hello to some friends and then went to S.O.R.A. where Ichiro was playing. He sounded really great in his scaled-down group (two guitars and rhythm tracks from an I-Mac) and was playing for a nice turnout, too. I have to mention that there was a low-level Sumo wrestler in attendance at the show. He was dressed in the typical kimono that you see on young, low-level understudies and he was obvious because of his size. His hair was spot-on perfect, too. I didn't get his name or talk to him but maybe I'll see him sometime on TV in the division.
11/2/13: The next day we rehearsed in typical "Nihonjin" fashion, going at it for 6 hours without nary a break. We worked on basic forms and assigned vocal duties and wrapped up the rehearsal with a confident feeling that at least the bare bones were intact and we were now ready to start applying the "exo" to our "endo" that we had constructed. Although S.O.R.A., the club we played in Fukuoka, was small, maybe a capacity of 50 at most, the turnout was a good one with old friends coming out every night we were there. We played with good conviction and some small mistakes, an auspicious beginning for the 2013 CDG Japan Tour. The warmth I feel from my Japanese friends is as genuine and enthusiastic as any I get in America. Japan is truly one of my favorite countries to be in and the icing on the cake is that I get to do what I love doing - playing music for the people. At times I'm so grateful for this that I imagine myself as Lou Gehrig, proclaiming in the holy confines of Yankee Stadium, "I'm the luckiest man on the face of the Earth."
11/3/13: After finishing our two-night stand in Fukuoka, we moved on to the Saga City Festival. Yoshi had told me that it would be like going into the wilderness of Alaska and it was. Saga City is a small outpost in Japan that few Western musicians have visited. It was a small festival and I got to play right in front of the train station where people couldn't help but listen to us. They would stop and enjoy the sounds coming off the stage. I got to listen to several of the acts preceding us and was amazed at the great talent this country has in the hinterlands and the appreciation from fans and music lovers. I later gave a 'master class' for guitar players. Yoshi and John played with me, too. It was pretty much me doing a bit of talking and then playing. It was a good turnout and a lot of fun.
11/5/13: Next it was off to Uwajima, another new area for me. We were informed that immigration officials hadn't officially sanctioned this event so instead it became a 'private' affair. The local promoter, Sei Chiyan, did a great job of getting out the word cuz' I would venture to say that this was our biggest crowd so far. Texas, the club that Sei Chiyan owns, was thrilled in getting me to play there after almost three years of trying to book me. Sei's band, The World, opened up the show. They were a quasi-heavy metal band with good vocal harmonies (Sei fronts the band as the singer). They were very enjoyable and fun to watch. The guitar player was embarrassed cuz' he had cut the tip of his finger but I didn't notice anything awry. The band had spot-on Marshall riffs and great tone. I was also treated to a new pedal from my friend Chi Kun. He's been making pedals for the last couple of years and this was a distortion pedal he made just for me with my preference of tones; big and loud! It's called the 'Texas Tornado' and I've had it in my line-up ever since. Arigatou Chi Kun!!! The next day we had a sampling of the area's noodles at the town's best noodle shop. It was an assortment of Soba (cold Ramen in a shio broth) and Curry Udon, which if you're not careful will fleck little droplets of yellow curry all over your shirt - so be sure of your grip and don't wear white!
11/6/13: It was on to Osaka for a travel day. The local truckstops are fun cuz' they feature specialties from the area. My wife Tomomi was still about a day away from joining us so I pretty much kept to my book. I like to read books by Haruki Murakami when I'm in Japan. I really soak in stories like 'Sputnik Sweetheart', 'Hard-Boiled Wonderland', and 'The End of the World'. Our hotel was right in the heart of the Kansai District and there was lots to see day and night. I was tired this night so it was Tenkai Ippin Ramen then right to bed. Tamara!
11/7/13: Taku Taku, the one club I played in when I first came to Japan back in 1995, is in a very old section of Kyoto. The streets are really narrow and the buildings have their original wooden frames intact. The club used to be a sake warehouse in the early 19th century and has been a live music venue since the mid-70's. Back in its early days, upcoming bands were announced on large 3' x 8' custom-painted billboards. Billboards of bigger bands that sold out the venue hang on the walls downstairs in the 'live room' and the rest are stored upstairs in the band room and offices. Band rooms are called 'gakuyas' and there I saw my original billboard from May of 1995. I told the owner if he ever wants to sell it to please contact me so I can bid on it first! Don't know how I'd get it home, but I'll figure that out when I get it. The show was fun but lightly attended, nonetheless we had a good time playing. The room sounded really good with all that old wood in the walls (would love to hear how a live recording would sound there). When we were loading out our equipment I saw my wife Tomomi out in the parking lot. She had just arrived at the venue, looking as forlorn as could be and pushing two big suitcases with her. I wondered how hard it was wrestling with those bags after arriving in Tokyo and then switching planes to Osaka and then taking a train and finally a taxi. Wow, what a journey! I threw her bags into the van and we proceeded to our hotel. A short drive to Kobe was on the itinerary for tomorrow.
11/8/13: After reading for a scant 30 minutes or so, Kobe came into view over the top of my Haruki Murakami book "Sputnik Sweetheart". Reading Murakami books while in Japan is a tradition of mine. It's so easy to imagine the places in the books and his descriptions really come alive being in Japan. If we keep booking long tours over here I'll be through Murakami's entire collection in no time! In Kobe we played at Club Varit, an honest-to-goodness rock club. It had a big stage with sidestages and seating upstairs and down, plus a mighty PA to blast the fans. The entire stage crew consisted of young girls, none over 5' 2", but all extremely confident and deft in their jobs doing sound, lighting and so on. They were as good as it gets and made us feel at ease setting up for the gig. It was impressive! Another light crowd was in attendance, but the opening band featured Ma-chan, a good friend of mine here in Kobe who owns a Mexican food restaurant and does a damn good job putting out whatever Mexican faire he can with the ingredients here in Japan. He lived in Mexico for awhile and still retains a smattering of Spanish and can belt out the occasional Mexican love song, but his band is more in the rock flavor. They're all weekend-warrior musicians and did an admirable job warming up the light crowd. Fun was the order of the day for them and it was achieved. I also jammed with a guitarist I met at the NAMM show in January (I can't recall his name but he's starting to get big over here and filling big halls. He's mainly a fire-breathing speedster on the guitar and plays with a girl named Yuki-san. Together they make an impressive barrage of notes that hits your ears and I really enjoyed their performance at NAMM. I was really humbled that he came to my show in Kobe. Arigatou gozaimashita! Our show was a bit dry in the first set but we picked it up for the second set. We're still on a learning curve but getting better. I have to give a shout-out to Blue Tone Music Store. Earlier in the day they bestowed a pedal to me from one of their product makers, Pedal Diggers. It was a distortion pedal named 819. I sampled it in the store and then used it for the remainder of the tour. I really like it's good biting tone and was able to use the pedal in place of my Macho Man that broke down before we left for Japan. Arigatou Blue Tone!!!
11/9/13: It's back to Osaka for us and we've been informed that our show at S.O.R.A. is a sell out! Never mind that the room only holds 40 some odd people, a sell-out is a sell-out! The stage was small but we acclimated to this restriction. It was a good-feeling show, everybody was listening and things just seemed to click for us this night. The energy from the crowd was good and it helped us reach emotional highs in our playing. Lots of friends came out, Toshi Sumitomo san, Kazu from Hiroshima, Taro was on the sound, and friends came up from Matsuyama to see us, too. With good vibes like that in the room it was hard to have a bad night. Atarita!! Equally entertaining was our walk back to the hotel in the heart of the Kansai district. Between all the girls and guys with their outrageous clothes and hairdo's, the drunk 'salary guys' tying one on after a hard day's work, and the 'working girls' standing around with their insouciant stares at us outsiders and inviting offers to all, it was a perfect menagerie to drift through towards our resting place. O-ya-sumee-na-sai Osaka!
11/10/13: We got up a bit on the early side with a 10 a.m. check-out and were to traverse the island to Kanazawa on the west side of Japan. We went from the Pacific Ocean to the Japan Sea (or the China Sea depending on what side you stand on) to the land of 'Nodo Guro', or Black-Throated Fish. This delicious fish that's fresh in Kanazawa tastes like it's cooked in butter when properly cooked (very expensive though). We traveled on highway tollroads and made it there in 6 hours. I have now finished 'Sputnik Sweetheart' and have started on 'Hard-Boiled Wonderland' and 'The End of the World'. Kentos was a venue that catered to 'Oldies' groups playing music from the 50's and 60's and now it was having us! The promoter got us into this room which was set up kind of old style with booths lining the walls and a railed-in dance floor in front of the stage. It didn't seem geared up for the volume we were bringing into the place and I did my best not to push the amp above 2. Actually my amp never went over 2 the entire time I was in Japan but it was still pretty loud (whatcha' gonna' do?). The opening band played an assortment of hits from the 70's which were really well played. John McKnight found it difficult to negotiate the height of some of the doorways and his head was bumped more then once. We were told this was due to Kanazawa being very old and the people's height back then wasn't too tall so the buildings all had low ceilings and doorways. This was a common occurrence with many of the other towns, too. Our show was good and even though we had a slight uptick in attendance since our last show here, the energy was hard to draw out of the people. For the most part, Japanese audiences are very reserved. You think they're not really getting into the music, but to the contrary, they're very astute and knowledgeable and in their own quiet way they are having a great time. That much is reflected in the genuine affection and enthusiasm they display after the show when I'm signing autographs and talking to them. They are really wonderful fans and it's no wonder so many groups come to Japan to record live shows. I feel very lucky and honored that I've done exactly that here in Japan. I later ate two good-sized 'Nodo Guro' fish after the show. Umaii!
11/11/13: The breaking of the new day signals a day off for us. We're going to traverse back to the east side of the island over to Sendai. It's pretty much an all-day-in-the-van day for us. Even though it's only around 400 miles to Sendai, the speed limits here are strict and I'm not going to start talking about how expensive it is for the toll road! You can use the small roads if you want to go through every little town and their really slow speed limits, but the time to do that is almost unbearable as it is unthinkable for a 400-mile trek (but the views are nice). Mt. Fuji is the tallest mountain on the islands, but the majority of mountains here are all below treeline. They're nice and green and change colors in the fall. Lots of people are out on the road and you see the occasional wealthy Ferrari or Lamborghini pass you by. For the most part it's economy-size vehicles and big trucks transporting goods. The truck stops are always fun cuz' each one has something special to the area it's in. Whether it's a certain bread or dish of food or special animal sold in toy form, every place has its own character. We got into Sendai around 10 p.m. and Kato-san, the club owner of Live House Enn, took us out for dinner. He is one of my favorite people on the planet. A drummer from way back, he doesn't really play the kit anymore but his true love is music. The talent that has passed through his doors during the time he's been club owner has been nothing short of the best the world has to offer. We're talking Steve Gadd, Anthony Jackson, Allan Holdsworth, Michael Landau, Mike Stern and the list goes on and on. The first time I came to his club was back in 2006 and we all went out for a meal. Kato-san sat across from me and my Japanese bandmates and I asked why he was so quiet and he said, "I'm nervous cuz' I'm sitting next to Chris Duarte." Even though my Japanese is still pretty bad and basic on my best days, the genuine warmth that Kato-san shows me is always special. Our meal was 'Gyutan', cow's tongue, and it's delicious. Gyutan is a grilled specialty in Sendai and no other place can get it right like they can. John has been doing great in trying out some of the Japanese food and I was impressed with the assortment of things he's tried.
11/12/13: Our show at Live House Enn in Sendai was a lot of fun and I broke my bad streak. For some reason I had been having a bad streak prior to Sendai and just couldn't play good and walked out feeling dissatisfied with my performances. John vowed that the streak was going to end in Sendai and he was right. I felt loose and animated and I probably talked the most from the stage than any other night. For a while it even seemed like Yoshi and I were doing 'Banzuke', the classic Japanese two-man comedy style, and had the crowd laughing out loud and then we'd rip into a song. John was right, the streak had ended!
11/13/13: Our next date on the tour was Hip Shot in Kooriyama. I've always liked this town and the club owners are a factor in my feeling that way. The club is run by Maida-san and Meg-chan and has got all the looks of a rock venue with a big stage, PA, and a good lighting system. My voice sounded good in the room and onstage the PA sounded good. The people here gave off great energy, but it was woefully attended and only three people paid! Ughh, I felt awful at the end of the night but had to remind myself that this sometimes happens. One day you've got a great crowd and it's all going your way and then the next it's crickets. One silver lining though was playing for this couple who came to our show and parked themselves in the very front table. They were having a great time and loving the intimate 'private' gig with CDG for the evening. It turned out it was their 28th wedding anniversary and they came to the show as a gift to themselves. They said they couldn't think of a better thing to do for that occasion and I was touched. That declaration just wiped out any bad feelings I had about the sparse attendance (although it didn't help out our promoter). We went out afterwards and Maida-san and Meg-chan were in good spirits about the night rather than being in the doldrums. They've been in the biz a long time, too. Que sera sera!
11/14/13: The Tokyo club we went to, The Garden, was a new one for us. We were just here last July at Blues Alley and had recorded the "Live" album there. Our hotel was right above the club and my fave ramen shop, Tenkai Ippin, was around the corner. The Garden seemed to be set up better for rock bands and we had heard it had slightly better prices on the drinks. Tokyo is expensive to begin with so any little bit helps. There wasn't one place we played that was charging less than $25 a ticket and some were as high as $50 the day of the show! I put the pressure on myself to give my fans their money's worth. There was a television backstage so I was able to watch the end of the Sumo matches for the day. Another crack sound staff and the sound was great on stage (although my guitar was mighty thin sounding when I later heard a recording of the show, I'll have to work on that). Most of my Tokyo friends showed up and we had a good contingency of musical companies and endorsers, too. Nakamura-san of Kento's Amps and Cables (which I use), Young Guitar magazine (I've done several articles and dvd's with them), Shimpei (a highly respected writer and critic for all the major acts that come to Japan), and Korg reps. I am extremely grateful for the help and support I get from my Japanese friends and companies that endorse CDG. Arigatou gozaimashita!!! The show was a blast and I wrapped up the night with a late night visit by myself to 'Ten-ichii' (how the locals refer to Tenkai Ippin). Ramen dreams tonight, mmmmm
11/15/13: We were at Thumbs Up in Yokohama. I had played here many times before and it's also a popular stop for traveling international acts. The crowds are always vocal and crazy here. I don't know why, it's just always been that way. This might've been our best show of the tour. The second set was especially intense and full of energy and I really had fun this night. After the show this guy, who had been sitting alone and drinking a whole bottle of wine, came up to me and told me in broken English just how moved he was emotionally by our show. He then ended our talk with this long and heartfelt hug. I wish I could make everybody feel this good. I know I do sometimes but striving for this reaction is what I love to do. There were others at the show that had been following us around Japan, one in particular was a woman named Tomami who made it to almost all the shows (I think 8 out of 11). She was also a big Yoshi fan, who has his own rabid following in Japan, but it made me feel good that even his fans were approving of this once-a-year project that we do. Rock on, Tomami!
11/16/13: We had a day off after Yokohama and moved to another part of Tokyo that I hadn't been in before. It was mainly a lot of office buildings and companies in the area and a bit sparse on the night life. There was a 'Chanko' restaurant across the street and it just so happened that John had yet to try out chanko. Chanko is what the Sumo wrestlers mainly eat to put on the pounds and get a large intake of protein. It's a soup-like concoction cooked in a big pot on your table with a mini-gas stove heating it up. Inside you've got vegetables and pork strips with a Miso bean paste base for the stock. Usually a Sumo wrestler will open one of these restaurants after they've retired from wrestling and its success depends on the recipe that's served up. This wrestler was doing something right cuz' he had several of these restaurants in the Tokyo area and Yoshi, after earlier scouting out this place during our check in, said this wrestler was famous and well loved by the fans. Yoshi had an interview to do that night so me, John, and Tomomi went out to the Chanko place for a good last meal. As it turns out, I didn't realize the Sumo guy was there and he even helped us pick out some of the ingredients for our pot (if I had known it was him I would've jumped up for a picture!). This guy didn't look that imposing, but that's to be expected cuz' once they retire they stop eating all those high-calorie dishes they endure to compete and they reduce in size. He actually looked really young and in good shape and not as I would've expected him to look. I've been to a Sumo tournament over there and those guys are huge! Lots of muscles, too! They might have a big belly and pendulous pectorals, but their legs are something else. Not to mention the traps and shoulders. The guy commented on John's size and arms and said he looked like a 'Pro Wrassler' and that I looked like his weasel little manager! All in good humor and the meal was great. We couldn't believe we finished it. When it came out and you saw all the stuff in that big ol' pot it was like, "No way are we finishing that!" - but we did. Ya' just gotta pace yourself. We did our routine stop in a convenient store for late night snacks and bid farewell til' the next day, our last day on the tour.
11/17/13: Our last stop was a new city and territory for us, Hitachinaka. This was really a small town but the people there had been looking forward to seeing us for quite awhile. We did a quick soundcheck and went back to our brand new hotel. The hotel was right in front of the train station, which was also brand new. The complex was built anew because an earthquake had rendered the previous station unusable and it had to be demolished. Good for us cuz' this hotel was really nice! The club, Stormy Monday, was only a few minutes to walk to. There were two opening bands and they were fun to listen to. The first was a trio guitar band and it had a Rory Gallagher-type vibe to it. Good guitar tone with a curly cord that never touched the ground - just like the old days. Classic. The second band was a Savoy Truffle tribute band (the band that Yoshi was in and the one where I stepped in for the singer but was a poor replacement for him). We went onstage to much-anticipated fanfare and to be honest I just wish I could've played better for them. I didn't think my tone was very good and it just wasn't working for me. We had our moments, and it wasn't a total wreck, but I just wish I could've played better. The guys sounded good, it was just me that needed to up my game. "Sumimasen Hatachinaka no hito bito. Rai nen ganbarimasu. Honto ni!"
It really was a gas doing this tour and getting to see
all the stops and cities in Japan. All those big groups get to play big
halls and make big bucks and stay in great digs, but we got to see parts
of Japan that most touring musicians don't get to see and I felt honored
and lucky for the trade-off. To meet the different people in the diverse
areas of Japan was a real treat. To sample the cuisines of these differing
regions was another plus. Would I love the big paychecks and big halls and
4- and 5-star hotels? Sure, who wouldn't, but where I'm at is just fine
with me, too. I know this tour couldn't have been possible without the help
of Joyful Noise Company in Osaka, with Kiyo Tsuda-san and his staff; Yumi
and M-chan; all the promoters and club owners that took the risk of having
us for their shows; my wife Tomomi who helped get the ball of wax rolling;
Yoshi Ogasahara for all his driving and entertaining; John McKnight for
agreeing to come along and lay down the drums and be just an overall good
vibe with the entourage; the Kazu who let me use his CBBox amp every time
I come over so that I'm comfortable with my guitar tone; Ushizawa-san with
Marshall for getting us the Natal drums to use on this tour and for that
extra Marshall combo to bolster my bottom end; and to you the fans of Japan.
I feel the love from all of you and your warm and welcoming feelings every
time I come here. This really can't be done without your support and love!!!!
Arigatou Nihon no mina san!!!!! Nihon o dai suki desu!!!!!!!
- Chris Duarte
The Chris Duarte Group has just released a new live album! It is a sizzling 2-cd compilation featuring Jack Jones on drums and Yoshi Ogasahara on bass. Though it doesn't say, I think the material is from a 2012 tour of Japan. This cd is a tasty mix of of new cuts such as "Bottle Blues" and "Ridin'" as well as vintage CDG tracks like "Let's Have A Party" and "My Way Down" interspersed with killer covers "One More Cup Of Coffee", "People Say" and more! The mixing on this release is wonderful and the whole album throbs and pulsates with exquisite guitarwork. Get a copy, it cooks!
You can purchase a copy of "Live" HERE
Chris Duarte Group on "Legends" again!
The Chris Duarte Group was recorded on Don Odell's fabulous "Legends" show in Palmer, Massachusetts on 6/25. This is the 2nd appearance for the band and the production and sound on these broadcasts is incredible. In addition to the concert, there is an interview with Chris Duarte. Check Don Odell's YouTube site for clips from the recent "Legends" performance by going here.
Chris Duarte's new album "My Soul Alone" is available HERE It's his 7th release on the Blues Bureau/Shrapnel label with Mike Varney. Chris used studio musicians Steve Evans on bass and Aaron Haggerty on drums and the results are spectacular! Producer Mike Varney has once again nailed down the "tone" on this revved-up album. The touring band features Dustin Sargent on bass and John McKnight on drums. Click HERE for an up-to-date list of tour dates near you! Grab some friends and check out the new material from "My Soul Alone" performed live by the hottest band on this planet! Chris Duarte wrote of the recording sessions HERE and read some reviews of the new album HERE and click HERE to watch a cool 4-part interview with Chris at LoudGuitars.com!
"My Soul Alone" was recently reviewed in Czechoslovakia (see right) and here in the U.S. it has been getting more and more radio airplay across the country. These diverse (and hip) shows include Kai Turner's "Strictly Blues" on KRFX, Denver, Colorado; Kevin Ariente's "Unconscious Desires" and Mike Schwartz' "Straight No Chaser", both shows on KSJS in San Jose, California; Johnny Mack's "Friday Night Blues Attack!" on WDVX, Knoxville, Tennessee; "Jazz/World" on WWSP, Stevens Point, Wisconsin; "Sounds of Blue" on WFDU, Teaneck, New Jersey; Fred Hawley's "Rollin' with The Blues" show on KMXT, Kodiak, Alaska; Darrell Fortune's "The Northwest Convergence Zone" on NWCZ, Tacoma, Washington; Michael Murphy's show "The Blues Bus" on WMEB, Orono, Maine; "Eight to the Bar with Tarr" on KMEC, Ukiah, California; WCNI in New London, Connecticut; "Ridin' The Blues Train" on WRFG, Atlanta, Georgia; and more! A tip of the hat to all of these DJs for their exquisite musical taste! Some of the songs they have broadcast include "A Dollar Down And Feeling Low", "Lazy Afternoon", "Carelessness", "Sweet Little Girl", and my personal fave "Leave My Soul Alone". Help spread the word and call your local radio station today! Better yet, go their website and make a request for your favorite cut from the wonderful new album "My Soul Alone"!
|CONCERT DATES||WHAT'S UP, ETC.?||SHOW REVIEWS|
|INTERVIEWS and STORIES||BAND HISTORY||DISCOGRAPHY|
|BAND ARCHIVES||TAPE TRIPS||ALBUM REVIEWS|
|L14261||& STUFF||OTHER CDG SITES|
This wicked compilation from the Chris Duarte Group archives includes outtakes from "Only One" and "Tailspin Headwhack", home demos, live cuts, and radio appearances, plus three studio tracks of Chris Duarte recording with the band Mama (for more on this interesting musical collaboration, click here). Click here for a wild, free-ranging interview with Kelly Montana, Chris Duarte, and Jeff Leonetti about the Mama project. Order your copy of this limited-edition, factory-pressed cd - and help support the cost of this website as well - by clicking here.