When you find out that you're flying all the way to Japan from Atlanta, GA to do one gig and come right back home its easy to not be quite as excited as one normally would be. Fortunately I was asleep for the majority of the flight there and they arranged for us to have one day off before the day of the show so we could see a little of Tokyo before heading up to the mountains. Derek knew some cool places to eat and shop from being there with Clapton and with his own band, and we took advantage.
One place they loved to hang was a bar called the Red Shoes. I had been hearing a lot about this liquor that they have with either a snake or a lizard at the bottom of the bottle. Apparently Derek ate the snake last time he was there, according to custom. I told them that would not be happening in my case. Well after having a few shots of whatever that was I ended up eating a small portion of the lizard that was at the bottom of this bottle. It was nasty but I didn't wimp out and just swallow it, I chewed it up. Yuck! Its one of those really weird things that bonds a band together sometimes.
Japan is so different from anywhere else I've been. I've never seen a rude cashier or waitress for instance. Its like its not culturally allowed. The people are so polite and cordial. Fortunately I love sushi so I knew the food wouldn't be a problem for the most part. Although I have to say, their idea of breakfast is a lot different than mine. Hell, I live in Georgia! We truly had some great food, and I developed a new appreciation for how good the Japanese are at making different kinds of dipping sauces. (You gotta try Shabu Shabu sometime if you get the chance.)
The drive up through the mountains to the festival was amazing too because for the most part the Japanese didn't build on the mountains, only in the valleys, so the mountains looked untouched. It was a lush, dense, green panorama. I wanted to be on a motorcycle so bad I could cry. Our interpreters and guides, Wakaba, Aki, and Yoshi were amazing too. They took such good care of us and I really feel like I made three new friends. Beautiful, sweet people.
We had such a blast playing the festival too. When you come that far for one show you really want to make it count! I have to say that my brother Kofi was especially on that night. I can't think of a better clavinet player. Susan was ripping guitar on That Did It Baby that night too. Derek, as usual was transcendent.
You know he would never say it but I think Derek is the greatest rock guitarist of all time. Mostly he wouldn't say it because he's too humble, and because until recently he never considered himself a "rock" musician any more than he considered himself a "blues" musician. So this is my opinion only. But think about it, if you compare Clapton, Hendrix, and Duane's playing at the age of sixteen to Derek's at that same age I think it would be obvious who was the most advanced. Hendrix was always my personal favorite as far as rock guitar goes but it was the combination of his writing, singing and his personal style on guitar as well as his mastery of the instrument itself that did it for me. I'm talking here purely about the mastery of the instrument. Its only because Derek doesn't sing that he doesn't get the same status as Clapton and Hendrix, but make no mistake about it, he's the best. I'm saying it because he won't. If you need more proof, consider the fact that Derek has been asked to jam AND record with some of the greatest jazz musicians of all time as well. People like Herbie Hancock, Dave Brubeck, McCoy Tyner, Wynton and Branford Marsalis.......
Anyway, once again, I digress. The show was inspired, the crowd was the best you could ask for, and the trip was certainly well worth the long flights. I'm pretty sure it will be out on DVD too. I sure hope so. Its such a privilege to work with such great people.