Radiation-Free Jazz

July 27, 2011anita No Comments »

Spoiled for choice at Tower Records in Tokyo

It was slightly creepy arriving at Tokyo airport six weeks after the disaster at Fukushima and for me and my dad to be the only Western travellers in the Customs hall…  Were we crazy to go? “I have to die of something!” says my 82 year old father. As for me, my arm never needs much twisting to go to Tokyo. So much jazz in the air, for a start… although I was disappointed to cancel my night at the Blue Note seeing Helen Merrill, who for obvious reasons had postponed her tour. (Mind you, I think she’s the same age as my father, what’s her bone?).

I did have the pleasure of meeting up with one Masayuki Koito, who publishes a monthly jazz magazine – “The Walker’s”. It’s online as well as on paper  www.t-walkers.com. Since we met up in Shibuya it felt only right to pop over to Tower Records, which has a massive jazz section. Call me old fashioned, but I love buying CDs. They come complete with all the info and for a radio dj such as myself it saves a fair bit of labour when you can hold that neat little package in your hand. So I went as crazy as I could and Masayuki helped out with his favourites too. One that I’m surprisingly enjoying is Shelly Manne and his friends modern jazz performances of songs from My Fair Lady. Masayuki’s favourite bass player is Leroy Vinnegar, who alongside drummer Mann and pianist Andre Previn make up the trio on these album. When Masayuki showed it to me I envisaged something well, saccharine. But since I was keen to hear some Leroy Vinnegar and it was the only sample of Vinnegar’s work left in stock (OK so that’s the downside of hardware).  And as Leroy Vinnegar “the walker” is Masayuki’s favourite jazz musician I thought I’d better buy it. And it really sizzles!

I made some new friends at the Akebonobashi Fill In Bar, where jazz vocalists of all shapes and sizes can pop in for a blow. If you can find it! I had a few locals running around helping me, thank goodness. The bar seats about 12, including the band, so the atmosphere is very personable. Also, no-one was smoking.. not sure if that was a co-incidence as I later heard that it’s very unusual to find a non-smoking bar in Tokyo. www.5.hp-ez.com/hp/fillin/

I must have a good nose for fresh air because the other jazz bar where I sang was also non-smoking: Meg, in Kichijoji. It’s a funky looking bar, about twice the size of The Fill-In Bar. The decor is striking, with two giant red cylindrical speakers flanking an open-faced upright piano and a thoughtfully arranged artwork of vintage record covers in various shades of red, mounted on a side wall. The night we were there a trio was playing and I was delighted that the musicians were all women. Hiroe Nakajima was burning up the keys (who needs cigarettes?) and the heavily pregnant bass player  still managing to get her capable hands around her instrument. I had barely said hello when they invited me to sing with them. Hiroe welcomed me in Japanese to their audience before I sang a selection of standards. It was a great opportunity to perform for my Dad and my brother and his wife who were there, as we all live in different cities. www.meg-jazz.com

Meg Jazz Bar at Kichijoji

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