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Friday, Dec. 23, 2005

LISTENING POST

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New Year's Eve Jazz


On New Year's Eve, Tokyo's jazz shrines -- the many clubs, small and large, that cover the city -- offer great stops for a musical pilgrimage. Starting around 7 p.m. and ending at dawn, jazz musicians and fans pack in to play and hear their last -- and first -- notes of the year. "Auld Lang Syne" never sounded so good as in the full-throttle swing of a jamming jazz band right before the countdown begins.

Now an old tradition, Tokyo's jazz world knows that New Year's Eve means some of the year's best all-night jams. Musicians pick up on the good-time vibe and lay into heartfelt solos that sound all the better fueled by a few glasses of bubbly. The clubs put on their finest for the evening, and customers settle in with each other to enjoy themselves with a convivial vibe that contrasts with the solemnity traditionally expected of a night of jazz.

Most evenings, jazz clubs finish early enough for the last train, but New Year's lets everyone hear what that "missing last set" has to offer. When the musicians' second wind kicks in just before dawn, the solos are as fiery and emotional as at any time of the year. It's well worth staying up and staying sober for those.

While many jazz lovers settle in, rambling around on a pilgrimage, as with shrines, is just as much fun. Where ever you end up at, whether the no-cover B Flat (pictured above), the bench and ashtray interior of Aketa No Mise, the hip Zen feel of Shinjuku's Pit Inn or the world's smallest club, Hot House, there's no jazzier way to swing out the old and blow in the new.

For more information, check out these venues: Akai Karasu, Kichijoji, (0422) 21-7594, www.akaikarasu.co.jp; Aketa no Mise, Nishi-Ogikubo, (03) 3395-9507, www.aketa.org Alfie, Roppongi, (03) 3479-2037; B Flat, Akasaka, (03) 5563-2563, www.bflat.jp Body and Soul, Aoyama, (03) 5466-3348, www.bodyandsoul.co.jp Hot House, Takadanobaba, (03) 3367-1233; Jazz Spot J, Shinjuku, (03) 3354-0335, www.jazzspot-j.com Ko-ko, Shibuya, (03) 3463-8226, www3.point.ne.jp/~ko-ko Meg, Kichijoji, (0422) 21-1421, www.meg-jazz.com Naru, Ochanomizu, (03) 3291-2321, www.jazz-naru.com Rooster, Ogikubo, (03) 5347-7369, www.rooster.jp Shinjuku Pit Inn, Shinjuku, (03) 3354-2024, www.pit-inn.com Sometime, Kichijoji, (0422) 21-6336, www.sometime.co.jp


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