Selected by Dan
Tower Blues Festival
number one export
The Japan Blues Carnival in summer and the Park Tower Blues
Festival in winter demonstrate Japans 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
worlds 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 worlds 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 years seventh
festival, the atmosphere was laid-back, with performers coming out to mix
and mingle with the audience.
This years 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
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 WatersEdeath. More recently he has recorded as a solo act
and is highly regarded as a leading younger exponent of Chicago blues
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 Japans 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.