I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Duke Aces -- Kansha kanreki (感謝還暦)

This year, Duke Aces (デューク・エイセス) would be celebrating their 60th anniversary! It is really impressive for a group to last that long. Of course, the only member who has been there for all 6 decades since 1955 is Baritone and leader, Michio Tani (谷道夫, Mi-Chan). Then joining 2 years later in 1957 is Second Tenor, Kazuhiko Yoshida (吉田一彦, Kaicho). Bass Yoshitaka Makino (槇野義孝, Tono-San) came in a year later in 1958. There were some shifts here and there during that period (1955 to 1960), but these 3 guys eventually became 3 quarters of the group's final lineup.

Now, you must be wondering about the Top Tenor. This position is currently held by Hideki Osuga (大須賀ひでき) the youngest one in the group - that guy is not even 60, while the rest are 80/almost 80. But over the years, there have been a handful of fellows in that position, and I'd like to note them down. From 1960 to 1964, we have Jun Obokata (小保方淳). Then the one that joined the group from 1965 before his unfortunate passing in 1990, Yasumasa Taniguchi (谷口安正). And finally from 1991 to 2009, Tomohiko Iino (飯野知彦)... until his also unfortunate passing in 2009. May those two rest in peace.

Anyway, on to the main topic after a brief history. I had received Duke Aces' 60th anniversary album, "Kansha kanreki" (released on 22/10/2014), just last month as a surprise birthday gift from Mom... well I had been raving about it for a good few months as this album mostly contains the group's cover of American oldies songs, along with their 2 latest singles. I enjoy such songs quite a bit really... takes me back to my younger days where I used to watch Sesame Street at 9 am during school holidays. And I would think that these songs would be what I'd hear at live performances in those Jazz Clubs.

So, I shall talk about some of my favourites from the album... right now. Most of them being the American oldies songs.

1. Koibito yo ware ni kaere (恋人よ われに帰れ)... Lover come back to me

One of the first American oldies song I've heard from the group and enjoyed, it struck me as something you'd hear at a Jazz bar. Starting off slow with Mi-Chan's fruity voice forlornly expressing the fellow's regret for letting his loved one go. And then there's a sudden jump in pace with trumpets and drums coming into the mix as all four begin to narrate at breakneck speed what went down. Top Tenor here would be Taniguchi.

With lyrics done by Oscar Hammerstein II and was composed by Sigmund Romberg, "Lover come back to me" was first released in 1928 a Broadway show called "The New Moon", and sung by Evelyn Herbert and Robert Halliday. It's been covered many times since, most notably by American singer-actress Barbara Streisand in 1962.

2. Dry Bones (ドライ・ボーンズ)

Probably the most well known American oldies song by Duke Aces, I've seen a video with them (it was a recent appearance, so Top Tenor was Osuga) on a show hosted by Tetsuko Kuroyanagi (黒柳徹子), "Tetsuko no heya" (徹子の部屋) singing this song out of others from their "Nihon no uta series". Video of that is in the link below.

This catchy (it has a knack for getting stuck in my head), widely-known song about bones was written and composed by James Weldon Johnson, it's inspiration comes from the bible's Ezekiel 37 verse 1 to 14. "Dry Bones", also known as "Dem Bones", was first recorded in 1928 by The Famous Myers Jubilee Singers, there have been dozens of covers as well. One such example, other than these 4 fellas, would be by The Delta Rhythm Boys in 1941.

3. Uruwashi no Ida (愛しのアイーダ)... Ida sweet as apple cider

Unlike the first 2 songs I've mentioned, "Ida sweet as apple cider" only has the strumming of the acoustic guitar as the background music. As a bass, Tono-San replaces the instrument with his own voice (very impressive!). Later in the song during the "instrumental" portion, Kaicho, who takes the reign as lead vocals here also becomes the trumpet. Top Tenor for this one, or at least the performance in the link above, was Iino.

The original version of the song was released in 1903! It was first sung by Eddie Leonard, and it was written by Leonard himself and composed by Eddie Munson. I couldn't seem to find the original... probably because it's practically ancient, but I put up the version by Bill Haley and His Comets, my favourite out of the few I've versions seen on YouTube with its funky musical rendition.

4. A Resha de yukou (A列車で行こう)... Take the A train

"Take the A train" sounds like it belongs in a Broadway musical with the trumpets blasting constantly and its upbeat jovial mood. It's quite a fun, jazzy song with the fellas calling for the passengers to make haste and board the "A train" before they miss their only way to Harlem.

The original was more of an instrumental piece composed by Billy Strayhorn for the Duke Ellington orchestra in 1939, then the lyrics for "Take the A train" were added in 1944 by Joya Sherrill.

5. Tomo yo saraba (友よさらば)

To end off this article, I'd like write about the B-side song from Duke Aces' newest single (also released on 22/10/2014), "Ikirumono no uta/Tomo yo saraba" (生きるものの歌/友よさらば). Why the B-side? Well, mostly because I actually know what it means. Written and composed by Kiyoshi Matsuo (松尾潔), the song basically about saying goodbye to your friend, and the usual stuff that follows like thanking for everything, and hoping to be able to meet sometime. Along with the music, it sounds like a grand farewell to your good pal!

From the lyric booklet thing. Over the years...


  1. Hi, Noelle.

    As the late bandleader Lawrence Welk once put it, "Wonderful, wonderful"! I love the jazz here with the Duke Aces...reminds me of The Ames Brothers, especially with "Lover, Come Back To Me". Along with the enka, I used to hear a lot of ol' standards on the stereo including those guys, Bing Crosby & Rosemary Clooney and Henry Mancini. I also love the Aces' rendition of "Take The A Train"; they were probably quite the popular guests on the old variety shows such as "Shabon Dama Holiday." Since you mentioned that you enjoy the American oldies, just punch in 「シャボン玉ホリデー」into YouTube.

    Also, since you've included Babs into the article, I have made a separate honourary category for her since I also included her on a Hiromi Iwasaki song ( a couple of years ago.

    Good to hear the standards again!

  2. Hi J-Canuck,

    Checked out "Shabon Dama Holiday"... very nostalgic and very old. From the episode I checked out - in black and white, so it was quite difficult for me to watch it... I'm not used to it - there was what seemed to be a vocal group on (and The Peanuts), so I reckon Duke Aces may have appeared on often too. With its music parts and little skits, it seems like the predecessor to The Drifters' shows, but with more jazz.


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