Thursday, January 24, 2013

discreet charm of the Tokyo Jazz café



Arthur Fowler, Noriko Shigehara, and others (whose name I don´t know) play at the tiny Checkerboard Jazz Bar (Asagaya, Tokyo).

I had read about the mythical, sophisticated music place several times in H. Murakami´s work: the jazz bar/café in Tokyo.  I had imagined hundreds of CDs and records of old jazz bands carefully stacked by aficionados in tight wooden squares and rectangles along walls in a dark, timeless bar.  Last Friday I experienced it in non-fiction: sitting knees-to-back, shoulder-to-wall on little stools.  Maybe in total 12 stools, 12 respectful listeners.  The place must have been about 6 by 14 feet. One couldn´t move (it was tricky to take this photo). But a lack of space did not create a repressive feeling, quite the opposite, it seemed not to matter who you were or who you sitting next to, I lost track of time and felt a cozy, melting exception, for which I was very grateful.

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Jazz café recommendations from Arthur san (hard to find in English!)

Some of Tokyo’s top jazz players play at the Big River, as well as a range of other folks, including us.  The “Master” there is fairly good at English and is a good person.  It’s about as small as the Checkerboard, but a more “serious jazz” atmosphere.  Some of the jazz fans and musicians here like it exactly because when the music is on (30-minute sets), there’s no talking or ordering, so it’s all about watching very good players from the front row. Big River:
http://www.bigjazzriver.com/st/nd.html

This little place is around the corner and down the block on the street that runs along-side the Higashi-Nakano station.  I haven’t gone in yet.  Thelonious:
http://www.tokyojazzsite.com/content/thelonious

Here’s a link to another place that is highly regarded in the jazz world of Tokyo.   I’ve only been there once.  Meg:
http://tokyojazzsite.com/content/meg

And this place, right up the street from Takadanobaba station is really small!  Intro:
http://tokyojazzsite.com/content/intro

Oh, and here’s one other place, just past Meiji-doori on Waseda-doori.  It’s on the second floor.  I’ve walked by it many times, but haven’t paid the fees to see a show there yet.  Sunny Side:
http://www.sunny-side.jp/index.html

Last Friday at Sunny Side Jazz Café it was open mic night:


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