January 30, 2007

Mood indigo

Monday evening it was down to Shibuya for an evening of club jazz at Duo Music Exchange. The evening was billed as 'indigo jam room @duo', with a DJ set, a support act and the headliners, indigo jam unit.

After the initial DJ set, it was time for the opening act, a session featuring percussionist Kosuke Tsuji and violinist Yuji Katsui. Tsuji was hammering away at the bongos and Katsui had his violin hooked up to a computer, so he could use pedals to produce different effects. Initially this looked very promising, with some sounds akin to John Martyn's 70s echoplex guitar work, though to be honest, it got a little self-indulgent. I have a feeling that it was an improvisation session and in the 45-minute set, they played just two 'tracks'. There was no doubting their ability ~ I just wished they had broken up the set slightly with some banter or breaks.

After a second DJ set it was time for the main act, indigo jam unit. This Osaka quartet is more or less a jazz piano trio but with two drummers (one plays in a jazzy style, the other plays in a more funk-based style), and I was very impressed with their debut album demonstration last year. Some of their tracks are dancers firmly in the club jazz vein, whilst others, due to the simple yet haunting piano melodies, are almost cinematic in nature.

They launched into their largely in silhouette set backlit with purple light, and some video sequences projected onto a screen behind them. The first segment was a sequence of mid-pace tracks taken from the new album 2X2, but things really warmed up in the next section of tracks ~ the 'funky corner' ~ and by the time they played 'Ka i ka' and 'Scene - Cartain call' [sic] from last year's album the crowd was really getting into the groove.

Up to this point the drummers had been taking it in turns on different tracks, but the last segment of the concert was the 'twin drum' corner, and featured tracks where they played together. The climax was the title track of the new album where the piano melody floats effortlessly over the backing that, in the latter stages of the song, alternates from bar to bar between jazzy and funky.

There was a two track encore featuring their rework of 'Spiral Waltz' and 'Palette', both of which went down a storm.

I picked up a copy of the new CD and a T-shirt on the way out, and am thoroughly looking forward to seeing them again when they come back in May.

Bar hopping in Asagaya

Saturday night after work and a colleague and I decided to explore the bars near Asagaya station. We weren't entirely sure what was there, but I had heard that there were lots of small bars that catered to all tastes in music, so it looked worth a try.

We started by wandering around taking a look at what was there, and were sorely tempted by the offer of "Jazz and Boozz" [sic] offered at one place, but it sounded remarkably quiet. On a different side street, however, we could definitely hear some live music, and we plumped for Blues House Chicago.

The first thing that strikes you as you walk through the door, is the air, or lack of it. The atmosphere must have been at least 80% smoke and less than 10% oxygen. Once you recover from wincing at this, the next thing you notice is that the name is rather grandiose for a bar that is smaller than most people's living rooms (and L-shpaed to boot). However, there was live music.

We were fortunate enough to get the last two seats at the bar. We ordered the beer and adopted the same craned-neck pose of the other five (yes, just five!) patrons as we tried to get a glimpse of the band that were playing round the corner. It was a apparently a four-piece band, though we could only see the guitarist/lead singer, wailing and writhing in a particularly glam rock take on the blues. Being a tiny bar, the sound system was tiny too, and the band sound as if they were being amplified through a set of portable speakers you might have used in the past with your Walkman.

After that band, the woman two seats down at the bar, who looked as though she might work in the local bakery, took to the stage with her acoustic guitar and belted out some fine renditions of blues classics such as 'Sweet Home Chicago', 'Bright Lights Big City'.

Top of the bill was the self-effaccing guy sat the other side of us, who had to squeeze past to get to the stage. He delievered a set of Dylanesque songs in Japanese, some of which had quite amusing lyrics, almost putting him in Loudon Wainwright III territory.

Not a bad live set for 600 yen!

After the live music, it was definitely time to get some fresh air, as my lungs were starting to forget what oxygen tasted like. We wandered around a bit more, and then opted to pop into Dongara, which had the 'soul cinema' posted outside and a large collection of 70s vinyl behind the bar.

The menu looked like an album, printed on a record-shaped card, slotted inside an album cover bearing the bar's name, which was pretty cool.

There weren't many customers there that night ~ apparently the weekend after payday is quiet in Asagaya, because everyone heads for a night out in Shinjuku. Even so, we had a good time chatting and chilling out to the sounds of Marvin Gaye, Isaac Hayes, War and so on, whilst admiring the various old film posters pinned up around the bar.

We were talking so long that I missed the last train and had to get a taxi home, but it was a good night out.

January 28, 2007

Spotted in Iidabashi

1500 yen to do what to my hair?

January 26, 2007

Champion sound

Hihache - The Lafayette Afro-Rock Band
Kuenda - Jon Lucien
The frog - David Axelrod
Sunlight - The Youngbloods
Bam bam - Sister Nancy
Twenty five miles - Edwin Starr
Nothing is real - Shawn Lee
Song to the siren - This Mortal Coil
Champion sound - Jaylib
Pity a fool - Barbara Brown

Fuji Chicken

A great little shop on the 'shoutengai' (shopping street) near Numabukuro Station, Fuji Chicken has a good selection of fresh, made-on-the premises fried chicken, chicken cutlets, meatballs and various other side dishes. On days when I'm too tired to cook from scratch or I'm out of culinary inspiration, I often pick something up from here on the way home.

January 16, 2007

Let it flow, let it flow

Listen love - Jon Lucien
Soul village - Walter Bishop Jr
Del Fuego - Fat Freddy's Drop
Samba-da-li - Dalindeo
Hide out - The Hideaways
Sugar Lee - Donny Hathaway
Beautiful sadness - Shuya Okino
Lovin' explosion - The Eliminators
Winter in my heart - Sandra St Victor
Flow - The Broken Keys

January 08, 2007

Hats! - 7

New addition to the collection complete with pom-pom!

Tempura in Shinjuku

After looking round the shops it was time for something to eat. Decided to try out a tempura restaurant called Tsunahachi which always seems to have a long line of people waiting outside ~ surely a sign of a good place. Went for the mid-priced set meal, which was very filling and delicious to boot. The last little bit of holiday decadence before going back to work and normality. Just tofu for dinner tomorrow perhaps ...

Bargain hunting

Had a look at the sales in Shinjuku today, which was fun, though as usual it was difficult trying to find stuff that was the right size. Managed to find a top that I liked and fit me though, so it wasn't a fruitless search.

January 06, 2007

All those lives we'll never know ...

16 miles - Boo Hewerdine
Funk for nerds - Forss
Night and day - Everything But The Girl
Pharoah - Topaz
I'm just a prisoner (of your good lovin') - Candi Staton
Spiral Waltz (indigo jam unit remix) - Big Bang and indigo jam unit
Catalpa - Beanfield
A la mode - Art Blakey
Hung up - Salt
Wander - Idris Muhammad

January 04, 2007

Hats! - 6

Hatsumode at Arai Yakushi

New Year in Japan means it's time for 'hatsumode', which when people visit their local shrine to pray for good things to come in the new year. I decided to check out Arai Yakushi in Nakano-ku on January 2nd to see what was going on. As you can imagine, it was packed, so much so that the queue was out of the gate and a full block down the street. I couldn't be bothered to wait my turn that day ~ maybe I'll go some other time in the coming days.

Various pictures

Self-portait in mirror tiles

Folkestone harbourGeorge VI era post box

December 30th: Cullins Yard

For my last night we went for dinner at Cullins Yard at the Western Docks in Dover. The restaurant is a conversion from one of the old dockside buildings and serves a good selection of seafood and other dishes. I opted for a deep fried brie starter and sea bass with a shrimp and garlic sauce served with seasonal veg. You have to wait a while for the food, but when it does come, it's worthe the wait -- very tasty indeed. However, as I found more than once on this trip, I was so full after eating I could barely move. I did find the energy, mind, to stroll down to the dockside to take a couple of pictures in the blustery wind. A nice wya to round off the trip.

December 30th: Come on you Whites! - Part 2

Saturday once more and there was another home game, so it was back up to Crabble to see the mighty Whites once again. It was a wet and windy day, and the conditions were pretty difficult.

Following last week's win and an away draw on Boxing Day (conceded a late equaliser again!), there was slightly more confidence to the side. They took a while to get into their stride, but after the first goal went in, they didn't look like losing. They ran out 2-0 winners, but it could have easily been 5-0. A good way to end the year, and hopefully it bodes well for the rest of the season in 2007.

December 29th: The past uncovered

My sister has spent the last few years doing some incredible home improvements on the place she bought and in the process of redoing floors, digging up the garden and so on, she managed to unearth all sorts of objects, such as a Victorian era shoe, an old beer bottle from a local brewery, an old medicine bottle and so on, some of which she has kept as ornaments.

December 28th: A day in Dungeness

Derek Jarman's cottage.


Spent the day down in Dungeness which was fun. We had a fish and chips lunch at the Britannia Inn and then wandered around the beach area taking pictures and got blown about a bit. The area is a protected nature reserve and the landscape is somewhat surreal and eerie, especially with (soon to be decommissioned) nuclear power station nearby. The beach cottages, which simply rest on the shingle, have become somewhat desirable since Derek Jarman famously moved down to the area and spent his last years doing up the cottage he bought.

December 27th: Sifting through the past

Back over to my dad's in Folkestone, where we spent the day going through some of stuff tucked up away in the loft. Spent a lot of time laughing over old photos. Big hair and big glasses were a bit too prevalent in the 80s shots! ~ pity I haven't got round to scanning them into the comuter yet ~ not!

It was good, though, to see of my old travel pictures, and when I get the time, I may well start up a separate new blog to show them to the world.

In the evening we all piled round to the local Indian restaurant where I pigged out on chicken madras and garlic naan ~ great stuff, but I could barely move afterwards.

December 26th: Walking off the Christmas dinner (down memory lane)

I decided to walk off some of the Christmas dinner by looking around the centre of Dover. After a long absence from any place, it's interesting to see which shops and buildings have survived, and which have disappeared. In Dover, it was nice to see that some of the smaller businesses (Vane's the bakers, Rooks the butchers, Paynes the greengrocers) have survived, but strange that things like the main post office have gone.

I wandered down the High Street towards the Market Square and then to the seafront. It was still cold and foggy, obscuring the view of the castle somewhat. I walked down to the end of the Prince of Wales Pier, overlooking the disused Hoverport, but I was pleased to see that the lighthouse cafe (where I whiled away many an afternoon in my teens) was still there.

I then headed back into town, up Castle Street and up towards the castle, which was closed, naturally, then back down into town via Connaught Park.

A very invigorating and refreshign walk.

December 25th: Christmas in Dover

Spent Christmas Day at my mum's. Had a generally relaxing day, a huge dinner (British size portions have been a bit of a shock to the system after ten years in Japan) followed by plenty of presents and Christmas TV.

December 24th: Canterbury tales

Christmas Eve and it was over to historic Canterbury to see what changes had been made to the city centre and also to watch people doing their last minute Christmas shopping.

It was fun seeing some of the old familiar places such as Weavers and the ducking stool, the Cathedral and so on.

In the early evening we joined the masses in the pedestrian area for the Community Carol Service, which, unbeknown to me, has been taking place for some years, and it usually has the Archbishop of Canterbury in attendance. It was an interesting, but chilly experience, and so the suggestion of mulled wine and nibbles at my sister's back in Dover in the evening was most welcome.