I’ve never been so rocked by jetlag in my life. I landed in Tokyo a week ago via São Paulo, Brazil (a 12 hour time difference). As I wandered by night, nearly sleep-walking, Tokyo felt too surreal. After cities like São Paulo, Johannesburg and Bombay, I couldn’t believe such a quiet, clean, organized, yet modern city could exist. You even shop in a generic grocery store while Miles Davis’ version of “Love For Sale” plays in the background. I’m still grasping it all, but Tokyo is completely different than anything before. I’m settled now, and almost acclimated enough to get busy with it. Though, I did rush things a bit, sitting in on a jam session until 5 AM at Café Cotton Club (people pay to jam in Japan!) in the trendy Takadanobaba ‘hood, which only further threw off my sleep schedule.
Tokyo offers a lot. On Sunday, I walked through an urban park in the heart of bustling Shinjuku to the Park Hyatt Hotel, where I took an elevator to the New York Bar on the 52nd floor to meet pianist Jonathan Katz. Katz and shakuhachi player Bruce Huebner have experimented quite a bit with Japanese folk music and jazz. Check out Katz’s MySpace, specifically the track “Cattle Herder from Nambu (南部牛追唄).” Hotel gigs are the bread and butter for many in Tokyo. Musicians call the Park Hyatt the “Lost and Translation” gig, as its New York Bar featured an iconic film scene with Bill Murray. While Katz wrapped up, I soaked up a hazy panorama of Tokyo’s skyline.
DUG Jazz Café in Shinjuku
After “Lost in Translation,” we strolled to DUG, a nearby jazz café. Jazz cafés are unique to Japan–spots where jazz enthusiasts socialize, dig on LPs and drink coffee and tea. Immensely popular in the 50s and 60s, only few are still in business today. The owner of DUG, Hozumi Nakadaira, entered late and greeted Katz (who used to play at his jazz club). Nakadaira recounted many jazz stories, referencing his photography donning the walls (even a 1987 painting by Miles Davis). He graciously imparted a set of postcards of his black and white photography, portraying personal iconic scenes like Japanese trumpet legend Hino Terumasa sitting in with Chick Corea and Stan Getz in Tokyo (1968).
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I continue to dabble in different fields within the music world. My year of travel has always been one of experimentation first and foremost. My most recent endeavor is music journalism–not to say I aspire to be a music journalist. The thing is, I write live reviews on this blog anyways. Why not publish them? I’ve informally covered The Oslo Jazz Festival in Norway, the Svensk Jazz Final in Sweden, JazzMatazz in India, On The Edge of Wrong (one of my favorites) and The Cape Town International Jazz Festival in South Africa… In Brazil, I sharpened my figurative pencil for a formal festival review, acquiring press accreditation as an All About Jazz (AAJ) music journalist. Check out my review of the 2012 BMW Jazz Festival in São Paulo!
Senhor Charles Lloyd in São Paulo