He also came up big at the ASCAP awards last month 7 of the songs he wrote last year won awards.
Jazz has a trendy underground appeal in Tokyo. It gained popularity after the World War 2. At this point some of the biggest jazz musicians in the world are coming from Japan now. In today’s Japanese culture jazz clubs are kind of an alternative thing to do for young hipsters.
They have the cache of being cosmopolitan. Granted, New York is an undisputed haven for jazz. It’s where jazz musicians and jazzheads still thrive, and where you can catch a late-night set at places like Zinc Bar, down a set of stairs, past a velvet curtain to find whiskey-swilling aficionados head-boppin’ to new talent and legends such as Jeff “Tain” Watts and the late Cedar Walton.
But Tokyo has quite its share of jazz lovers too. Record collectors can dig into various jazz shops in neighborhoods from Shinjuku to Shibuya and Ochanomizu, and those craving a dose of live music can bar-hop into an impressive array of locations throughout the city, which span live venues with notable acts to more idiosyncratic bars with distinctly varying moods. Make sure to avoid crappy spots that feature “lite” crooners and opt for the real deal. Here’s a short-list to get you started:
Pit Inn – Shinjuku: A place for the straight-up, hardcore jazz listener. The seats all face the small stage, the bands are always at their prime, prices are fair, and the sound’s top-notch. Accord Bldg. B1, 2-12-4, Shinjuku-Ku; 03-3354-2024; pit-inn.com/index_e.html.
Samurai – Shinjuku: A quirky, unique establishment filled with more than 2,500 “lucky cat” figurines, including a five-foot-tall one at the entrance. Ambiance is key here, with every bit of wall space taken up with those cats as well as calligraphy, haikus, and autographed album sleeves from New York jazz artists. This is a sanctuary to drink, soak in the décor, and contemplate the records on rotation. The owner, Jiken Miyazaki, also hosts live, improvised haiku performances, which he perceives as a form of jazz. Mori Bldg. 5F, 3-35-5, Shinjuku-Ku; 03-3341-0383; jazz-samurai.seesaa.net.
Jazz Pub Michaux – Shinjuku: Tiny spot for those in-the-know and connoisseurs of ’50s and ’60s jazz. Elder owner Misho Yasushi is a devoted record collector with countless stories to tell (including interviewing Thelonious Monk during his Japanese tour). This is a place where even the keenest jazz buff will discover something new, especially in the hard-bop and soul-jazz realms (with rare finds from players like Baby Face Willette). After all, Yasushi has over 4,500 records to share. 3-11-12 2F, Shinjuku; 03-3357-4509.
Aketa No Mise – Nishi-Ogikubo: Those searching for something a bit more off-kilter should check out Aketa No Mise (which means “The Open Store”). Don’t expect anything fancy, though. This is a no-frills, basement jazz club, with a stage for acts leaning towards free jazz and experimental angles. Yoshino Bldg. B101, 3-21-13, Nishi Ogi Kita, Suginami-ku; 3-21-13, 03-3395-9507; aketa.org/mise.html.
Naru – Ochanomizu: If you’d like some good food and wine with your jazz outing, head over to Naru, which has proper live sets every night from respected players, talented vocalists, and regulars from the Tokyo jazz circuit. It’s owned by saxophonist Ishizaki Shinobu, and there’s a sister location in Yoyogi, a neighborhood in the northern part of Shibuya. Jujiya Bldg. B1, 2-1 Kanda Surugadai, Chiyoda-ku; 03-3291-2321; jazz-naru.com.
Jazz in Tokyo: Looking for Jive in the Japanese Capital
Is Rock Dead?
I don’t listen to a lot of rock. I grew up in the Midwest on classic rock and kind of overdosed on it long ago. Don’t get me wrong I will never get tired of Zeppelin, Hendrix, or Crosby Still and Nash, and I love all 90’s rock from Nirvana to the Afghan Wigs, but I don’t really buy Rock music now. Sure I go to Lollapalooza and Bonaroo and enjoy all the indie bands but I mostly find myself checking out the latest mix tape, which is generally Hip Hop. That said I was kind of bummed to learn that a lot of other people aren’t buying Rock either.
New York Times reports that the state of Rock music is so dire that the genre has not produced a single great album in the last few years, its music critic Jon Caramanica writes that instead of declaring the genre dead we should “call it zombified.”
Rock is, after all, still shambling around, but the best of the bunch are basically walking “in footprints laid out years, even decades, earlier.”
Possibly it is fact that it’s the old guard? U2 and Bruce Springsteen tours bring in huge numbers. Bon Jovi was one of the highest grossing live acts in the last couple of years bringing in $201.1m in world ticket sales. However, its front man is 48, and according to a report by Deloitte, 40% of the front men of the top 20 highest-grossing live Rock acts in the US will be 60 or over next year; almost one in five acts will be over 50.
Beyond Arena Rock, 2011 was a terrible year full of long-reliable acts in the Rock genre that failed to arouse even their typical level of interest: Evanescence’s “Evanescence” (Wind-Up), Blink-182’s “Neighborhoods” (DGC/Interscope), Coldplay’s “Mylo Xyloto” (Capitol). Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “I’m With You” (Warner Brothers), Limp Bizkit’s “Gold Cobra” (Interscope), R.E.M.’s “Collapse Into Now” (Warner Brothers), Sum 41’s “Screaming Bloody Murder” (Island).
I personally did love that new Chili Peppers album. Anyway what do you think is the reason that the new Rock bands aren’t blowing up? Is it lack of record label support, lack of radio support or just lack of younger fans?
Sure, there is good work on the fringes, and on independent labels, but “it wasn’t so long ago that major-label rock had bursts of vitality,” Carmanica laments. Now “it’s a living funeral.” Last year the UK Guardian reported that Rock songs in the charts fall to lowest level in 50 years, with only three tracks appearing in the top 100 best-sellers. The percentage of rock songs plummeted from a sickly 13% in 2009 to a terminal 3% – far behind hip-hop/R’n’B at 47%, pop at 40% and dance 10%, according to figures from MusicWeek.