Christmas Tenor Mood

Christmas Tenor Mood
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Welcome to Episode 8 of Holly Jolly X’masu! In this episode, I talk about the phenomenal 1968 album, “Christmas Tenor Mood” by the Nakamura Hachidai Quintet and Hidehiko Matsumoto. I’ve been looking forward to this album, not just because of how great the music is, but because of its pedigree. As I doing my research, I discovered that Hidehiko Matsumoto was one of the premiere tenor sax players of the 20th century. What really pleased me most, though, was finding out that Nakamura Hachidai had co-written “Sukiyaki.”

A few months ago, I looked up “Sukiyaki” on YouTube one night. This was right in the middle of the initial quarantine and we were starting to deal with everything my oldest daughter was going to be missing out on during her senior year of high school. She loved the song when she was younger, which could be part of why I wanted to hear it that night. For whatever reason, I clicked on the lyric video.

The Japanese title is “Ue o Muite Arukou,” which translates to “I Look Up As I Walk.” The song starts:

I look up as I walk

So the tears won’t fall

Remembering those spring days

And tonight, I am all alone

 

With all that was going on, the lyrics really got to me. I’ll admit, I had to look up a bit. It struck me that the song fit what everyone on the planet was going through at that moment. We were facing a global crisis and having to deal with circumstances nobody envisioned. Countless people in every country were having to get through each day, one step at a time, looking up as they walked, or doing whatever else they could to cope and get by. And we were all trying to remember a better, normal spring.

 

I look up as I walk

Counting the stars with tearful eyes

Remembering those summer days

And tonight, I am all alone

 

I thought it was uncanny how well that song fit, and that I chose to listen to it just when I did. I listened to it quite a bit over the following week. Not long after that, I was exchanging emails with a friend in Japan. We were comparing notes on how COVID was impacting us. If any good thing came from all this, it’s that it gave every single person on the planet some common ground. It might be awful, but it’s something we’re all experiencing at the same time. After telling me about how things were going for him, he told me there was a song that was helping him get through it. He said, “It’s a Japanese song, but you might know it as ‘Sukiyaki.’” I couldn’t get over the fact that the two of us were about 6,500 miles apart, and from completely different cultures, but we’d both turned to the same song for some relief from the insanity we were both facing.

 

Happiness lies beyond the clouds

Happiness lies above the sky

 

A couple months later, as I started researching this episode, I was delighted to discover its connection to “Sukiyaki.” Seeing how Nakamura Hachidai kept popping up over the last few months, I started to reflect on how important these shared experiences are. While COVID is terrible, my hope is that we all retain a sense of commonality once we get past it. It might not have disrupted everyone’s lives to the same degree, but everyone on the planet has been impacted to some degree. It’s given us all something to talk about, cry about and even laugh about together. With any luck, it will lead to at least a little togetherness and understanding.

 

I look up as I walk

So that the tears won’t fall

But the tears well up as I walk

For tonight I am all alone

 

As always, thanks for listening. Next month, I’ll be featuring the 1972 album, “Merry Christmas from Sellstars,” by Takao Hirata and Sellstars. This is probably the most obscure album I’ve featured so far and I’m pretty excited about it. It’s a blend of late 60s Now Sound music and early 70s Funk. It’s a lot of fun and one you’ll want to hear. In the meantime, if you have any suggestions or recommendations, feel free to send them my way. Also, be sure to check out some of the other Christmas podcasts mentioned in this month’s episodes. They’re a great way to keep Christmas going year-round.

Any feedback on this episode would be appreciated. If you’d like to recommend a song or album for a future episode, drop me a line and let me know.

Remember, I’ve added a button to my Ko-fi page. If you’d like to support me one cup of coffee at a time, a donation is only $3. Any donations received will be put towards purchasing new Japanese Christmas music to review for future episodes. You can also find me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And if you get a chance, leave me a review on iTunes. Thanks!

Listen to this episode of the Holly Jolly Xmasu Podcast
Author: Holly Jolly X’masu
Title: Christmas Tenor Mood
Holly Jolly Xmasu

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