Jazz On Film … In A Cafe

Jazz On Film … In A Cafe

REMINDER: Get your tickets NOW for Yoko’s May 15 show at the Regattabar!

This is part 2 of an occasional series in which our blog administrator, Jason Crane, remembers his jazz-related experiences in Japan.


In the first installment of this series, I talked about meeting Eddie Gomez and Jimmy Cobb at a jazz club in northern Japan. This time, I want to talk about one of the cooler places I went when I worked in Tokyo.

From Duke Ellington and Count Basie and others appearing in short films, to Louis Armstrong in big Hollywood hits, to countless concert videos and documentaries, jazz has a long history on film. In our internet era, anyone can quickly find clips of their favorite jazz artists online.

Back in the olden days, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and the internet was barely a thing, it was much harder to find jazz videos. A video rental place might have a copy of Jazz On A Summer’s Day or ‘Round Midnight, but for the most part you had to order them through the mail or find a friend who collected that sort of thing.

So you can imagine my delight when I discovered a jazz film cafe in Shibuya, a busy shopping district in Tokyo. The cafe was down one of the many small, winding streets of Shibuya, not far from the Parco 109 department store, if I remember correctly. (Does anyone remember the name of this cafe?)

The set-up was simple. You’d buy a tea or coffee or beer (I’m guessing — I don’t drink), and they’d give you a three-ring binder full of the names of all the available videos. You’d choose yours, it would go into the queue, and you’d relax on a couch and watch whatever was playing on the movie screen at one end of the long room. I saw lots of great stuff there. I particularly remember some burning Rahsaan Roland Kirk live performances.

I’d love to start a place like this in the U.S., although I think the ubiquity of the internet probably means this business model’s time has passed. But it was great while it lasted.

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