April 09, 2008


In loving memory of
my sister Lisel

who died whilst on holiday on Goa, April 6th, 2008

April 06, 2008

Jazzy Joint

Jazzy Joint - J.A.M featuring Jose James
Life Time - Soulstance
Put On Train - Gene Harris & The Three Sounds
Paleo - Topaz
Take Off Your Clothes To Feel The Rising Sun - Wolfgang Dauner
Fujii Drive - Masayoshi Tzuboguchi Trio
Granny Scratch Scratch - Sound Dimension

California Soul - Brenda & The Tabulations
2000 Black - Roy Ayers
Roll Call - The Stance Brothers

April 05, 2008

J.A.M & Jose James at HMV Shibuya

Friday evening I was down in Shibuya to see J.A.M with Jose James for the second time in as many days. This was a free gig at HMV with tickets going on a first some first serve basis, so I made sure I arrived in plenty of time. As always the guys from J.A.M gave a superb performance and Jose James was amazing on the tracks he sang.

J.A.M started off with Quiet Blue and moved on to Roy's Scat before Jose James joined them on stage for a rousing version of Spirits Up Above. Soil & "Pimp" Sessions sax player Motoharu then appeared for Park Bench People, giving a blistering solo and then sparring with Jose's vocals and scatting ~ simply amazing stuff. It was back to J.A.M next for Quiet Fire, with both Josei and Midorin offering up amazing solos, which went down like a storm. Jose James was back after that for an extended version of Moanin' which was a match for the version played at Liquid Room the previous night. We were then treated to an unexpected aside as an over-enthusiastic member of the audience tried to make his case to jam with the band on his bamboo flute before the boys launched in to Jazzy Joint, which was closed out with some call and response playing between Jose James and Josei that was great fun to watch. As an encore they played a wonderful version of Body and Soul. An amazing in store gig that continued for about 75 minutes, and I truly hope that both Jose James and J.A.M can continue to push this wonderful music to a wider audience.

Books: The Possibility of an Island by Michel Houellebecq

As a misanthropic, cynical middle-aged man obsessed with sex, free love, loss and death, Daniel1 is a typical Houellebecq main character, and The Possibility of an Island revisits a lot of the same themes as his previous novels, Atomised and Platform. A writer who is as detested by some as he is admired by others, he often poses some big questions in his books, though without necessarily providing satisfactory answers.

Daniel1 is a highly controversial yet successful stand-up comedian who has made a name for himself by using the prejudices of the general public to create themes for his jokes and sketches. He gradually tires of his fame and success and seeks to escape it all, at first by embarking on a highly erotic affair with a young actress and then by becoming involved indirectly in a cult. For a large part it is easy to aspects of Daniel1 as a satirical self-parody and Houellebecq seems to enjoy this and is on top form in these parts of the novel.

The other narrators are Daniel24 and Daniel25, the comedians cloned progeny who are looking back on their originator's life story some thousand or more years into the future. With society and life having evolved, these clones are curious to know about the feelings of love, lust and regret that Daniel1 spends so long agonising over.

For me the futuristic sections don't work quite as well for me as Daniel1's passages, and it feels as though the ideas in these parts didn't come to the author as easily as in the present-day narrative, though that could also be in part down to the translation. As with his previous books, Houellebecq's latest novel gave me plenty of food for thought, while at the same time hoping for something a bit more, and I will certainly be looking forward to his future writings.

Gilles Peterson's Worldwide Showcase 2008

Thursday evening I was down at Liquid Room in Ebisu for Gilles Peterson's Worldwide Showcase 2008 for some live music and DJs. I got there shortly after the 7pm start time and Jazztronik were part way through a live set of electronic-jazz fusion tracks. Shacho of Soil & "Pimp" Sessions appeared on stage for one track to work the crowd and get the evening well and truly started. After that we were treated to a DJ set from what GP called "Tokyo Jazz Originators", which was basically a pantheon of some of the biggest names on the Tokyo club jazz scene, such as Toshio Matsuura, Shuya Okino, Tatsuya Tsunaga, Kei Kobayashi, Raphael Sebbag and so on. Each had a limited time slot to spin one or two tracks, with styles ranging form soul, jazz and funk to latin, hip-hop and electronica, with Shacho acting as the MC.

Next up were J.A.M on stage opening their set with Quiet Fire and New Things before being joined on stage by Jose James, and together they performed Jazzy Joint, Spirits Up Above and a monster version of Moanin' with an amazing drum solo from Midorin. It was a really natural collaboration and they looked really comfortable playing together. A real winner.

GP himself was at the decks next for a great eclectic mix of tracks that went down really well, starting out soulful and closing on a Brazilian note. Sweet.

The final live act was the 9-piece Japanese afrobeat combo Kingdom*Afrocks. It was the first time for me to see them, though I had heard that their live shows have been causing something of a buzz. The start to the set was atmospheric and slow, but they gradually got into their groove and the people at the front of the crowd were certainly getting into the music. Their songs had all the hallmarks of great afrobeat, with the shuffling drums, percussion and driving bass and guitar, that allowed the keyboard player and horn section to punch out their riffs over the top. A worthy addition to the new afrobeat scene and a name to watch out for.

April 04, 2008

Under The Bridge at Ebisu Station

Perfect Form

Being rather ignorant when it comes to plants and flowers, I have no idea what this is called, but it seems to be in season right now and you can see them on trees around the city. This particular bloom caught my eye as it is perfectly formed and completely blemish free. If anyone can tell me what flower it is, please feel free to leave a comment.

Silver Lady

Near the Museum of Modern Happiness in Higashi Nakano. Whether it's a karaoke joint, a place to take singing lessons or an altogether different establishment, I'm not sure.

Sounds Like Bliss

Rode past this place in Higashi Nakano yesterday. I was intrigued to see what was inside, but from what I could make out there was just a cafe plus some halls and banquet spaces for hire, but no exhibits as such. If you were going to hire space there, what would you exhibit to help the place live up to its name?

April 02, 2008

Kitanomaru Koen

Kitanomaru Koen is near the Yasukuni Shrine and just north of the Imperial Palace Gardens. This time of year it is teeming with people out cherry blossom viewing.

Kitanomaru Koen is home to the world-famous Budokan, and yesterday the three-piece female pop-punk badn ChatMonchy were playing there.