Daily Prince 7/27/20: Osaka

Before I get started on “Osaka” I thought I should give an update on my pilgrimage to the newly unveiled Prince statue in Henderson, Minnesota.  As I wrote on Friday, I had originally planned on going to Henderson on Saturday, but instead I stayed home and my family and I tried to find a beach on Lake Michigan that wasn’t packed with people.  Not an easy task on a sunny, 90 degree Saturday, even during a pandemic.  There was a troubling amount of maskless people out and about.  So, we took a walk out on a pier, but spent most of our sunny afternoon driving up and down the west shore of Lake Michigan unsuccessfully looking for a secluded spot where we could swim and chill.  Instead of a day on the beach we ended up with a 3+hour road trip that went nowhere and a minivan with three disappointed kids…and two disappointed adults, for that matter.

At that point I decided I needed to make my trip on Sunday.  To the surprise of no one, I couldn’t find anyone else willing to drive ten hours to look at a statue, so I set an alarm for 5:30 AM to head west early.  A few minutes after 6:00 I grabbed a few snacks and beverages with every intention of hitting the road.  Then I stepped outside.  The skies were dark gray and the temperature and humidity were already too high for 6:00 AM.  I set my stuff in my truck and thought, “I better check the weather.”  Here’s what I saw:

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If you’re not up on your geography, I was starting in Green Bay, Wisconsin, on the right side of the picture.  My destination was the little black teardrop just southwest of Minneapolis on the left side of the picture.  That blob of blue, orange, pink, and yellow was some severe weather a few hundred miles wide heading straight toward me.  According to my Dark Sky weather app there was a flood warning in Henderson just to add to the fun.  So, I asked myself: Do I want to drive five hours through severe weather to end up in a place that may or may not have flooding?  I decided against it.

Now here I sit on a Sunday morning.  Ready for an adventure that’s not going to happen.  Not today, anyway.

I know I’ve been harping on this for weeks now, but the entire month of July has been deep cuts.  Today we have a special treat.  A gorgeous song that I guarantee you haven’t heard of unless you’re the hardest of hardcore Prince heads.  “Osaka” is one of five tracks from Prince’s unique 2004 release C-Note.

C-Note is a compilation of various recordings from pre-show soundchecks that were only open to members of his online NPG Music Club during the 2002 One Nite Alone… tour .  The album is almost completely instrumental and it has an improvisational jazz vibe.  The album is credited to Prince and the New Power Generation, but the New Power Generation on this album does not resemble the same NPG of the Diamonds and Pearls and Love Symbol albums of the 1990’s.  This was a band of jazz musicians.

“Osaka” was named for the city where it was recorded.  On November 28, 2002, “Osaka” was recorded during soundcheck before a show at Osaka-Jo Hall.  In January of 2003 the track was released via e-mail only to Japanese members of NPG Music Club.  It was later made available to members worldwide.  In December of 2015 C-Note and a handful of other NPG Music Club-only albums were finally made avaialble to everyone via Tidal, and eventually all other major streaming services.

C-Note has five tracks and “Osaka” is in the middle.  The first two tracks are uptempo jazz/funk, then “Osaka” slows it down drastically.  It’s one of those songs that’s so slow, I’m not sure how drummer John Blackwell maintains the tempo.  It must take a tremendous amount of discipline to maintain 55 BPM.  This song has an amazing chill vibe.  The keyboards provide the atmosphere while the rest of band takes turns improvising solos.  The only soloist I can identify with certainty is Prince on electric guitar.  I’m guessing Renato Neto is the soloist doing beautiful work on the keys.  The rest of the horn solos are difficult to identify, so I’ll just give a shout out to Candy Dulfer and/or Maceo Parker on sax.  Eric Leeds is credited on tenor sax and Greg Boyer on trombone, but I’m certain I don’t hear a trombone or tenor sax on this track.  Shout out to them anyway.

I’ll say the same two things about “Osaka” that I said about “Tokyo” when I wrote about that last month.  First, I wish C-Note was available on vinyl.  This is a perfect album for spinning on a turntable.  Second, how you feel about this song will completely depend on how you feel about jazz.  If you don’t enjoy instrumental music, this is not for you.  I love jazz, so I give “Osaka” 3 out of 5 stars.  If you love jazz, too, you should check out C-Note immediately.

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