Tag Archives: live music

Points of Light

Toki has Bon dancing on Chuo Dori before and during its fireworks. Many people watching the dancing tonight seemed hardly interested in the skypoppers in the background. Among the various colorful yukata of both dancers and watchers were these robes I though depicted the swoopdown swallows I recently wrote about, until I realized they were great blue herons flying upward. Kind of Escherian, especially considering they both frequent the Toki River.

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Music for the dancing was performed by shamisen, shakuhachi bamboo flute and taiko players on a stage in the middle of the street, and emceed by a professional announcer.

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Rounded domes of fireworks patterns, lanterns, ceramic fuurin wind chimes, and, here, even a passing older gentleman’s white hair populated the evening’s floating world.

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On the subject of flashing points of light, I was hoping to show you photos of fireflies this summer, but they are even more elusive than I thought. Maybe next year.

And this is probably as appropriate a place as there’ll ever be for this indispensible nugget: After years of fruitless furtive roadbound glancing to see if anyone’s blinkers were in sync with mine (which futility led me to wonder if car manufacturers deliberately set every single car’s blinker timing differently so as to ensure each one stood out; two in synch and stacked in parallax could look like one, for instance), like a slap-happy syncopated lightning bug, I recently finally found visual harmony: a Suzuki Cervo ahead of me was flashing in unqualified perfect unison with my turn signal. Not some alternating in-phase, out-of-phase approximation. A lockstepped, serendipitous synchronicity, an amber alignment perchance mined from the same hunk of quartz somewhere in Brazil or backwoods Arkansas. It was sublime.

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And then, as the traffic light changed, like a fleeting fireworks trail or a fuurin bell’s fading ring, or summer itself, our do-si-do dance of light was gone.

Lots to Do

In case you’ve lost track, the weekend has an impressive lineup of events including:

  • The first of three live music Saturday beergardens tomorrow evening at the Sakazuki Art Museum in Ichinokura
  • A “machikon” beergarden atop a two-storey public parking lot in Tajimi to view the fireworks there on Sunday
  • A similar konkatsu (mixer) type affair at Secret Time Cafe on Saturday, where if you bring a date, there’ll be a special chance to enjoy Toki’s fireworks festival (not sure if it’s in their parking lot, but that would definitely be a nice spot); by reservation only. They’re still looking for takers last I heard
  • Something called Kokeizan Dining on Sunday, which sounds like a beergarden from one of Tajimi’s most scenic spots (advance purchase tickets required)
  • Neu Cafe, while itself closed after lunch Sunday, will be offering outside the shop draft beer, Okinawan food, curry, tandoori chicken sandwiches and more in the buildup to the fireworks
  • And of course Toki’s (Saturday) and Tajimi’s (Sunday) fireworks festivals with stalls set up all along the river (and Chuo Dori in Toki; Nagase Dori in Tajimi) all afternoon and evening; Tajimi’s festival is part of its Gozasse Natsu Matsuri

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These are just goings on I happen to be aware of. I’m sure there are plenty of others as well.

Lady Be Good

Too many cafes in town? Never. Just keep ‘em coming, and I’ll keep coming.

I’ve written before about Kumi Hirano and her plans to open a cafe, and now along with her husband, she’s forged the dream (if you’ll pardon the mixed metal, mortar and mortise) into stone, beam and plaster.

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Named after the legendary composer of Great American Songbook fame, Gershwin opened just a month ago in a quiet, secluded corner of Onada-cho in Tajimi. It’s since been gaining a word-of-mouth reputation as a go-to choice for a leisurely break and chat with friends.

Summertime, and the Livin’ is Easy

The emphasis is on simplicity, from the uncluttered architecture and furnishings to the menu of lovingly brewed coffee, tea and light sandwiches and sweets. There’s also a “morning service,” as is a local custom: breakfast for the price of coffee. If no one is using it, grab the table on the patio deck. They say it’s the best seat in the house, nicely shaded in summer by a thick bamboo grove across the way.

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Premium Audio is Standard

Though Kumi is happily and permanently retired from singing, there will be occasional live performances by local artists in addition to the fascinatin’ rhythm of choices from her extensive collection of jazz recordings day to day. That’s a piano toward the back in the top picture.

Get to Gershwin by taking route 381 (the Autobacks/Jazz Inn Papa’s/Akariya road) past the post office and (non-flashing) traffic light, and turning left at the bakery that’s on the left. Then take the first right just past the bakery, and the cafe will be immediately on the left. Hours are from 9 to 6, with Sundays and the first & third Mondays off.

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While a lot of folks spend their days toiling to realize their hopes with precious little or no success, Kumi has made not one, but two life dreams come true – being a full-time professional jazz singer, and building from the ground up and running her own cafe, which also happens to be her new home. Oh, and how can I forget dream number nine three: becoming a mom. Let us know where you found that magic lamp, Kumi. Congratulations and best of luck to the Hiranos on their new venture.

Get to the Point

Vive la Live

If your Bastille Day plans have you going to our illustrious (prefectural) capital, mark your calendar for this live jazz event at a joint known as Point. Featuring DJ interplay, the new (for Gifu) style here promises to delight even non-jazz lovers. A capital idea.

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I don’t know any of the other acts besides Kotaro Hiramitsu’s Ordinary Stance Trio, but if they’re anything like him, it’s worth going to. I’ll most likely catch Hiramitsu’s quintet sometime in the next month.

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Coming Straight Up

Local jazz pianist and personal favorite Kotaro Hiramitsu, appearing with the Trio “Ordinary Stance” on the December release “Anachrogital,” mentioned here before, is releasing a CD in July, this time leading his own eponymous quintet.

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The album is titled, “Straight Line,” with both original compositions and standards. Hiramitsu really shines as a leader, so I’m looking forward to it. The quintet will be making a special broader tour of live venues to promote the disc (schedule below). Until then, Hiramitsu is on the regular Nagoya circuit with the quintet, the trio, and as a sideman. We should consider ourselves lucky to be able to hear him so often.

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STRAIGHT LINE 発売ツアー
7月30日 四日市Veejay
7月31日 岐阜 Bagu
8月1日 名古屋 Jazz inn lovely
8月2日 松坂市 Kenney
8月3日昼 浜松B♭
8月3日夜 愛知県吉良 intelsat
8月21日 豊田市 Keyboard
8月22日 金沢 もっきりや
8月23日 富山入善町 TIME
平光広太郎(piano) 側島万友美(alto sax) 小松悠人(trumpet) 日景修(bass) 海野俊輔(drums)

Third Time’s a Charm – Unless It’s THE Conversation

I may start a new tag for cafes and restaurants that are open straight through from lunch to dinner, given what a fix you might find yourself in if it’s after 2:00 but before dinner hours. That happened to me recently (actually my first two choices just weren’t open that day), and I ended up at Lemon Heart near the Valor in central Tajimi.

They do have a very reasonable ¥600 pasta lunch, but seem pretty strict about the 2 pm cutoff time – I happened to arrive by 2:01, but the (not-serving) server had her back to me for half a minute before I was seated and given the menu of off-hours specials, which are frankly as good as some restaurants’ lunch-hour deals. I had the ¥1000 soft-shell taco/pasta lunch. Non-smoking time ends at 2:00, too.

They’d remodelled, I think, since the last time I was there, with various partitions creating, like any good heartful lemon, several small sections well-suited to drinks with friends.

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The owner is a jazz lover, so that’s one more reason for me to go. Fittingly, he went to the trouble of playing “Autumn Leaves,” not only Miles Davis’s classic version, but then a Keith Jarret rendition. I only go there once in a great while, and from his manner I don’t think he remembers me from one time to the next.

I’ve Heard That Song Before

I assume they still have live jazz there sometimes, though I’ve never gone for it. Maybe I dread getting dragged into another (first time ever!) conversation, with someone eager to embrace a new foreigner, about what brought me to Japan, and how Japanese study English for tests but (You don’t say!) can’t speak it, and…etc., etc.. Some places just seem to have that jinx about them for me.

One thing that may have changed: There used to be a dog in the restaurant, but I didn’t see him or her this time.

It may take a while to sort through which previously blogged places this new ‘open off-hours’ tag belongs with. Have patience, and in the meantime, try Lemon Heart when you’re squeezed for somewhere to go.

Neu Kids on the Block

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There must’ve been a dazzling rainbow sky a few minutes before this scene yesterday evening, but I was indisposed at the time. As the sun set, a combination tsukimi (harvest moon viewing, despite no moon in view) and pre-opening party for Neu (from the German, pronounced “noy”), the curry and bread cafe set to open next month by Showabashi Bridge, got under way a couple of doors down from work.

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In beautiful smoke-free bliss, fans had a chance to check out the funky retro decor (note the corrugated area below the rounded counter to the right above – lots of nice touches like that)…

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…and sample the curry, bread and drinks that will be on offer come October. The bakery will sell various breads as well as serve in-store. The newlywed owners and staff were busy in the kitchen keeping orders filled all night.

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Wig Got a Groovy Kinda Love

Note: Some of the hair in the photos you are about to see was afroficially produced in strict accordance with local and international polyester protection laws. No poodles or sheep were shorn (though I suspect small amounts of whiskey and/or pride were swallowed) in the making of this scene. Technicolor by PS Express iPhone app from Adobe. No, there are no disco lights at Nue. The lighting is thoughtfully done and you won’t leave with your ears ringing or spots in your eyes.

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Everyone had a fine time. Besides an eclectic collection of CDs on the excellent sound system, two bands supplied music – jazz standards, and the funk pictured here – which I only now realize was not so unneccessarily loud as is often the case at these places: Neu’s not noisy. The band’s identity is a closely guarded secret That’s the owner on bass guitar on the left. Good show.

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Neu is quite the photogenic venue, so look forward to more good cafe shots in the near future, and to good times with food and frirends when the cafe actually opens.

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Somewhere Under the Rainbow

A scene from the live jazz beer garden this year at the Sakazuki Art Museum in Ichinokura, framed by umbrellas hanging on tent poles. From left to right in the distance, that’s a sax, stand-up bass, keyboards and guitar. Clear enough to me, but then again I was there. Never forget the end user, yeah?

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Intermittent rain couldn’t dampen spirits, as cups of beer and sake were raised and good cheer grew by candlelight in this annual garden of rhythm and cool, just minutes south of daily care and strife, right off route routine.