Post: Monday April 4, 2016
It is easy to find great jazz in Tokyo, making the city a music lovers playground. There are swanky bars where you can listen to lounge jazz and overlook a glittering Tokyo skyline, tiny smoky basements bars for more serious jazz aficionados, and large clubs with lavish auditoriums where you can settle in for a dinner and show experience. Here’s a great selection of Tokyo jazz clubs, bars and events covering all bases. Cover charges tend to vary by venue and seating area, so check websites for details.
Tokyo Jazz Clubs by Area
Asakusa Jazz Bars
This hip jazz joint nightly showcases some of the finest in Tokyo jazz, featuring upscale artists from Japan, as well as international performers a few times a month. A roomy stage lends this venue to orchestras and big band outfits as well as more intimate shows. The stellar lineup of acts, crisp sound system and good food make B Flat one of the premier jazz clubs in the city. Open every night, standard cover is 2,000 yen.
Marunouchi (Chiyoda-ku) Jazz Bars
This outpost of a legendary NYC original can house up to 180 patrons inside its spacious interior, yet it still manages to pull off the intimacy and elegance of a small 1940s-style jazz bar. Cotton Club’s timber and red decor, draping chandeliers, classy atmosphere and upscale acts attracts jazz fans of all ages both living in and visiting Tokyo. Although the focus of Cotton Club is jazz, with world-class acts such as Ron Carter performing there, it also showcases soul, funk, and some pop artists. There is a variety of seating around tables and private booths, and a classy European-influenced food and beverage menu. The sophisticated but relaxed setting make for a very special night out. Open every night, cover ranges from 3,000 - 15,000 yen for one session.
Minami-Aoyama Jazz Bars
Body and Soul
Body and Soul holds true to the concept of an intimate jazz bar—a basement joint located down a dark backstreet, with low ceilings and dim lighting, but still charged with an undercurrent of sophistication. There are a few tables, standing room, and a long bar, all with view of the stage. This revered Tokyo jazz house features mostly Japanese acts, with monthly internationals, and is credited featuring some of the best upcoming and established jazz musical talent in the world. Standard cover is 3,500 yen, closed Sundays.
Having started out in NYC before expanding to cities throughout Asia, Blue Note is one of the most well-known jazz clubs in the world. A high end club located in Aoyama, a well-known area in the upmarket Minato district, Blue Note attracts major international and Japanese acts with its spectacular room and great acoustics. Chick Corea and Robert Flack are just two of the artists who have played over the years. The blue-lit, curtain-backdropped stage, and classic jazz club decor of dark wood and deep velvet make for a moody ambience despite the size. It’s this combination of sophisticated interior, world-class acts, impeccable service, and good food that make Blue Note an essential Tokyo jazz experience. Open every night, cover ranges from 7,500 yen - 10,000 yen for one session.
Roppongi Jazz Bars
This authentic Tokyo jazz club is a favorite of jazz lovers and musicians. The space is snug but swanky, the atmosphere sophisticated but warm. Patrons sip cocktails as they take in the upscale local and international jazz acts amongst a classy interior that glows in the dim amber lighting. Open every night, entry ranges from 2,500 to 4,500 JPY, with a free jam session most nights from midnight.
Billboard Live Tokyo
Billboard Live is one of larger jazz clubs in Tokyo, but still offers the cool of the smaller haunts. Seats look onto a stage backed by a large glass window with views of Hinokicho Park by day, and Roppongi’s light-speckled skyline by night. Located in the upmarket shopping mecca of Roppongi’s Tokyo Midtown, the sleek venue features some of the most reputable old school and new school jazz acts from around the world - Sergio Mendes, Brian McKnight, Robert Glasper Experiment to name a few. The elegant and expansive auditorium is spread over three levels, with a variety of seating and standing options, all in full view of the stage. Open every night, cover ranges from 3,000 to 12,000 yen for one session.
Large, street-facing glass doors give this hip little Tokyo jazz venue a different feel than smoky basement joints. Owner Amagai Ken-san is dedicated to making the space one for both up and coming musicians as well as more established ones. Just across from Roppongi Hills, this venue offers everything from electronic-fueled jazz on DJ nights to jam sessions and swing bands, and attracts a diverse crowd. Open every night, cover charge varies.
Shibuya Jazz Bars
Located in Shibuya’s upscale Cerulean Tower hotel, this fashionable venue offers quality jazz and an extensive food menu in a swank and roomy setting. A quality sound system mean musicians love to play here, and guests love to listen. The bill features upscale local acts, and once a month or so musicians from abroad, spanning all forms of jazz from bebop to swing and pop-influenced. Open every night, standard cover 4,200 yen.
Shinjuku Jazz Bars
The Pit Inn
Aficionados have been coming to Shinjuku’s Pit Inn for over 50 years, making the venue one of the oldest jazz houses in Japan. This tiny, no-frills, smoky basement joint is all about the music, with an excellent sound system and world-class acts, ranging from female lounge vocalists to the more avant-garde artists. The artists are mostly Japanese with international acts about once a month or so; lunchtime jazz sessions feature performances by emerging musicians. Open afternoons and every night, cover 1,300 - 2,500 yen for afternoon sessions and 3,000 yen for evening.
Photo by reed_flickr on flickr
Tokyo Jazz Events
Tokyo Jazz Festival
Tokyo’s largest jazz festival features a diverse and top-end range of artists from around the world. The festival is focused on jazz, but includes all interpretations of the genre, from bossa nova to acid jazz—electronic fusion artists feature on the lineup alongside classic icons like Herbie Hancock. The festival is held at the beginning of September each year across three different concert venues, and is a must for lovers of jazz and world music. Tickets start from 3,600 yen for a seat to 18,600 yen for a day pass.
Yokohama Jazz Promenade
According to its website, Yokohama Jazz Promenade was established with the goal to “turn the entire city of Yokohama into a music stage,” a feat which it accomplishes each year in October. Over 100,000 fans watch concerts in over 50 venues around the city, with an array of both young and veteran Japanese jazz musicians alike. Tickets range from 1,000 yen for a student day pass to 4,800 yen for an adult, and provides entry to multiple main stages, shows and jam sessions at various jazz clubs in Tokyo.
Tokyo Jazz & Beyond
Photo by wrex on flickr
The eclectic musical tastes and influences of Tokyoites make the city a home not just for jazz fans, but for fans of all music genres. Whether it’s melodic blues in a basement, soul records in a tiny living-room like bar, or the grandeur of a classical performance in a concert hall, PLAZA HOMES can help you find it in Tokyo.
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