Japan Tour with Matt Bianco August 2017 / by Elaine Crouch

Day 4

We met up for a trip to the fish market for sushi. We were chaperoned by Jiro, an old friend of Mark's who used to run a bar in Roppongi. He took us to the fantastic sushi restaurant pictured, where I was chastised for asking for extra wasabi (I became "wasabi man" for the rest of the day). It was like I'd ordered a cappuccino after dinner in Italy! Afterwards we walked around the market and I had the biggest oyster I'd ever seen.

The last 2 shows went really well and there were a few friendly faces enthusiastically helping us finish the rider off in the dressing room after. The Blue Note Club looked after us magnificently and the new jazzy Matt Bianco has gone down a storm so far.


Day 3

After the first night's shows I was exhausted and looked forward to a good night's sleep. Dammit, wide awake at 3am! Thanks what 24 hr hotel gyms are for, I guess! At least I was starving hungry for my Japanese curry breakfast....

I went on an expedition to the main saxophone store, Ishimori Wind Instruments in Okubo. This necessitated a subway train and an overground train, and was an intuition test of note since almost everything is written in Japanese and obviously no one speaks English. Anyway, I made it, and when I arrived I met a most hospitable chap called Nori (Norikiyo Yaguchi) who opened a large rehearsal space with a Steinway for me to try all the Ishimori gear out. Eric Alexander endorses their saxophones so we had fun trading stories. Nori later came to our Blue Note show.

The first show was one of those low ebbs, where everything that could go wrong did. Martin forgot to bring his flugelhorn on the stage to begin the show so there was an interminable minute of us standing on stage before the first note while he ran back to the dressing room to get it. There were some enthusiastic fans at the front who clapped on 2&4 on every song - slightly behind the beat.

The second show by total contrast was really good and we all felt like we'd nailed it. The mid show feast must have done the trick.

Tokyo with Matt Bianco - Day 2

The hotel took a bit of working out. There are two sets of lifts that access different floors, sometimes requiring combination journeys to get where you want!

The gym was as big as the rooms were small. The swimming pool area enforced a visible tattoo ban, due to "cultural sensitivity"

When we arrived at the Blue Note Club everything was beautifully set up exactly as per the tech spec. We soundchecked and ran about half the set, the acoustic aesthetic was well observed so it sounded great. Showtimes 6pm and 9pm. We were all a bit anxious about 1) playing the new material from memory for the first time 2) what the die hard Matt Bianco fans would make of the new "jazz band"! All went very well indeed and minor wobbles negotiated without sustaining any major damage! The club fed us a magnificent buffet between shows - lots of exotic veg, salmon and very tender rare beef. Martin Shaw met a gripper who introduced himself as the head of McLaren Cars.... Martin said he loves their cars, to which the boss asked "do you have one?" Yeah, right.....!

The hotel took a bit of working out. There are two sets of lifts that access different floors, sometimes requiring combination journeys to get where you want!

The gym was as big as the rooms were small. The swimming pool area enforced a visible tattoo ban, due to "cultural sensitivity"

When we arrived at the Blue Note Club everything was beautifully set up exactly as per the tech spec. We soundchecked and ran about half the set, the acoustic aesthetic was well observed so it sounded great. Showtimes 6pm and 9pm. We were all a bit anxious about 1) playing the new material from memory for the first time 2) what the die hard Matt Bianco fans would make of the new "jazz band"! All went very well indeed and minor wobbles negotiated without sustaining any major damage! The club fed us a magnificent buffet between shows - lots of exotic veg, salmon and very tender rare beef. Martin Shaw met a gripper who introduced himself as the head of McLaren Cars.... Martin said he loves their cars, to which the boss asked "do you have one?" Yeah, right.....!


 

Tokyo with Matt Bianco - Day 1

Left home at 3pm on Weds for Heathrow T4. Arrived recommended 3 hours before scheduled departure and got through security in 15 minutes. Korean Air checkin very agreeable and no hassle with saxophone. Then the delays were announced.... the plane needed a new tyre. Evidently they don't keep one in the boot along with a jack, so it was delayed, and delayed again. We were bored, so I had (hopefully) my last unhealthy food for a few days (pictured scorpion and chips) at the Prince of Wales pub. 

We left about 3.5 hours behind schedule. The Korean Air group staff were very helpful and attentive when I explained 6 of us had a connecting flight from Incheon to Narita and needed to make it in time for our 2 Friday shows at Tokyo Blue Note. 10 hours later we arrived at 6pm Korean time in Incheon. They had scheduled us on a later flight to Narita which in turn was also delayed. Oh the fun we were having. 

We did get to the very swanky Ana Intercontinental Hotel in Tokyo by midnight Thurs / Fri. Had we been via Zog? Where did the day go?!

We had a pint that cost £15 in the bar. 

The view from the window of my micro-room is of many even huger buildings (this one is 40 storeys). Breakfast was very exotic. I got a tray full of stuff I couldn't name, but tasted good! Off to rehearsal/ soundcheck for first 2 shows in an hour.