Selected by Dan Grunebaum

Park Tower Blues Festival

Iceland' number one export
Upright Productions

The Japan Blues Carnival in summer and the Park Tower Blues Festival in winter demonstrate Japan’s continuing love affair with the blues and offer a chance to enjoy performances in a festival atmosphere.

Of the two, the Blues Carnival tends to feature marquee talent, while the Park Tower Blues Festival showcases some of the world’s more obscure but nevertheless immensely talented blues artists over a three-day span at the sleek Park Tower Hall in Shinjuku.

          If the idea of enjoying one of the most earthy music forms in one of the world’s most futuristic skyscrapers seems strange, well, it may be. But happily, the promoters Upright Productions take care to design a festival in which the blues sits comfortably in this modern outpost; festival-goers are free to come and go and, at last year’s seventh festival, the atmosphere was laid-back, with performers coming out to mix and mingle with the audience.

          This year’s upcoming 8th Park Tower Blues Festival 2001 offers a survey of the diverse forms the blues has taken, from Mississippi and New Orleans to its northern outpost Chicago, and from a cappella gospel to electric blues.

          First up is George Porter Jr and his band The Running Pardners, who will be joined by fellow New Orleans resident Earl King. A bassist and vocalist, Porter was a founding member of the influential funk group the Meters before going solo at the head of The Running Pardners. Guitarist Earl King, meanwhile, has been recording since the 1950s for Savoy, Atlantic, Motown and most recently Roomful Of Blues, also finding success as a songwriter.

          Hailing from the electric blues capital Chicago, John Primer broke his teeth as a guitarist with the Muddy Waters band, working with Magic Slim after WatersEdeath. More recently he has recorded as a solo act and is highly regarded as a leading younger exponent of Chicago blues traditions.

Perhaps the most unusual act in the lineup is the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi. A vocal gospel group founded in 1936 by blind students of the Piney Woods School in Jackson, Mississippi, the group has seen its membership change over the years as it has continued to influence the development of soul music.

          The acoustic duo of guitarist John Cephas and harpist Phil Wiggins, meanwhile, represent the African-American dance music traditions of the Piedmont region, which spans Virginia and North Carolina. Debuting with Sweet Bitter Blues in 1984, they offer an acoustic alternative to the mostly electric blues in the lineup.

          As is the tradition, the festival will also feature guest appearances by some of Japan’s finest blues acts, including this year the Swinging Boppers and the West Road Blues Band.

The Park Tower Blues Festival takes place at Park Tower on Dec 14-16. See listings for details.

Concert Listings
403: Sloan
402: Jamiriquoi


401: Park Tower Blues Festival
400: Mercury Rev
399: Bjork
398: The Isley Brothers
397: Janet Jackson


396: Ian Brown
395: Tortoise Orchestra
394: Regurgitator
393: Art Garfunkel


392: Belle and Sebastian
391: Super Furry Animals
390: Ben Folds
389: Elton John
388: Dido
387: Papa Roach
386: Beast Feast 2001
385: Summersonic
384: David Sylvian
383: Maxi Priest & Big Mountain
382: Fuji Rock Festival 01
381: Roxy Music
380: Bo Diddley
379: John McLaughlin & Zakir Hussain in Remember Shakti
378: Paul Weller
377: Coolio
376: Backyard Babies
375: Marcus Miller
374: Black Crowes
373: Megadeath
372: Dionne Warwick
371: Arrested Development
370: Mouse on Mars
369: Duran Duran
368: Linkin Park
367: Maceo Parker
366: Japan Blues Carnival 2001
365: Ben Harper
364: Cheap Trick
363: Stephen Malkmus
362: Mogwai
361: Weezer
360: Marilyn Manson
359: Green Day
358: AC/DC
357: Richard Thompson
356: Bob Dylan
355: J. Mascis
354: Leigh Stephen Kenny
352/3: Limp Bizkit
351: Boyz II Men
350: Reef
349: Park Tower Blues Festival
348: Roni Size
347: Compay Segundo
346: Incognito
345: Jimmy Page and The Black Crowes
344: Bad Religion
343: Japan Soul Festival 2000
342: Rocktober 2000
341: Richard Ashcroft
340: Motorhead
339: Festival Halou
338: Ricky Martin
337: Taj Mahal
336: Asian Dub Foundation
335: Lou Reed
334: Earth, Wind & Fire
333: Sting
332: No Doubt
331: Camel
330: Fuji Rock: Smash Talks
329: Summer Sonic
328: Mt. Fuju Aid 2000
327: Salif Keita
326: Buena Vista Social Club
325: Bill Frisell
324: Maxi Priest
323: Lenine
322: Rage Against the Machine
321: Tommy Flanagan Trio
320: Smashing Pumpkins
319: Pet Shop Boys
318: Japan Blues Carnival
317: Gipsy Kings
316: Steely Dan
315: Pshish
314: Big Night Out
313: Femi Kuti and the Positive Force
312: Harry Connick Jr.
311: Sonny Rollins
310: Speech
309: Santana