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.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Toshiyuki Honda -- Living in the City

Late last year, I wrote about saxophonist/songwriter Toshiyuki Honda(本多俊之)and his contribution to the TV Asahi evening news show "News Station"(ニュースステーション). His theme song "Good Evening" made an impression on me even though I didn't really watch Hiroshi Kume(久米宏)and his program all that much.

Since then, I was able to discover one of his earlier works in the form of his 1980 album "Easy Breathing", and within it, there is the track "Living in the City".

Man, this is the sort of pleasant and mellow song that you want to hear when you're waking up on a sunny morning in your suite at the Keio Plaza Hotel or the Hilton in West Shinjuku. It definitely reflects the good side of living in the city, especially in the megalopolis of Tokyo. In fact, I'll extend my dreamscape into having that breakfast while listening to "Living in the City"...Eggs Benedict with bottomless cups of coffee, please. Then, I will take that walk in the neighbourhood, passing by buildings such as the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Hall and the Mitsubishi Building.

I'm not sure whether it is indeed Honda himself playing the main instrument of flute for the tune, but the performance is wonderful and it almost comes across like birdsong. Furthermore, that flute along with the bass, the keyboards and any other instruments mesh together to remind me even of some of Vince Guaraldi's contributions for the 1970s "Peanuts" specials. Of course, since I was weaned on Charlie Brown and Snoopy back in the day, that extra layer of nostalgia has also been laid on me. Yep, it would be nice to head back to my old stomping grounds again.


  1. Now this is a true gem of a track. Toshiyuki Honda delivered the goods. This style of light jazz-fusion typified much of the library composers of the 1970s, especially from England. The stuff guys like Alan Hawkshaw, Keith Mansfield, Steve Gray, and Trevor and Geoff Bastow (brothers) were doing. For those unfamiliar, library music is a sort of production music which is then licensed to clients in film, television and advertising. In fact, at one point they were composing so many tracks that the English government got involved, sending their agents to library labels such as KPM and Bruton to prevent them from composing too much music! Yes, you read that correctly. They tried to impose limits on the volume of music these labels could produce, limits which were subsequently ignored.

    Here, then, is one of my favorites, Upmarket by Geoff Bastow, a beautiful analog synth groove which never gets tiresome to listen to.

    Much of those old TV news idents and such have a wistful, nostalgic effect, don't you think? I'm so happy you mentioned Vince Guaraldi as his work is magnificent. All the network execs and such viewed the finished product as a disaster. From what I understand CBS initially didn't want to air it. That would've been a huge mistake as it's rightly regarded as a classic. Of note, Vince Guaraldi recorded the soundtrack on very short notice, cutting the entire project within a matter of days. I suppose it's hardly surprising given how it used to be that jazz musicians would simply get together in a studio and cut an entire album within one or two days, whereas nowadays most studio projects take at least a couple months to put together.

    1. Speaking on the library music, it seems as if a lot of Japanese variety programs and wide shows have been dipping into the soundtracks of anime for background music. Recently, I've been hearing music from "Gochuumon wa Usagi desu ka?" and "Girls und Panzer" while reporters head over to restaurants or museums.

      Your description regarding Guaraldi must be referring to the Christmas special. Yes, I read about that as well, and in defence of the execs and perhaps even the sponsors (Coca-Cola, Dolly Madison), I can imagine that they were biting their nails at the thought of using cool jazz as background music for a bunch of kids wringing their hands over a Xmas play. But as it turned out, the show has become a classic and now that soundtrack has become a must-play in a lot of people's homes during the Yuletide.:)

  2. Yes, I meant to say A Charlie Brown Christmas Special. Sorry, my post got truncated somewhere along the way while editing it.

    Japanese variety programs sourcing anime for background music isn't surprising given the vast amount of available material. There's no production costs involved for the TV network to commission an artist to compose new work. Only a matter of making a selection and then acquiring the licensing rights, unless the network itself owns the source material for what was a work-for-hire. Then they've got leeway to use it however they want. The original composers must be elated to know that their work is appreciated.

    Had the soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas been more predictable, streamlined stuff then it wouldn't have made the same impact. Vince Guaraldi Trio's jazzy soundtrack really added another level of depth to the production. Of course I purchased the soundtrack as it's simply wonderful music, especially around the Christmas season. There are certain films and shows where the soundtrack is really integral to the whole such as Ennio Morricone soundtracks to Sergio Leone films, or John Carpenter's soundtrack to Halloween. They're a crucial component to the atmosphere.


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