Our old friend the shakuhachi player, Koichi Yoshida, and his band Yugao have an autumn show at Zac Baran this weekend and the wonderful flamenco dancer Carmen Alvarez is back from Spain to join the performance! You can see some clips of Carmen in action with Yugao from a performance last year here. A little birdy tells me that Koichi is planning to move to France soon… so this might well be our last chance to see this unique blending of musical cultures here in Kyoto for quite some time.
Blending jazz, classical, traditional Japanese and Indian music, Kyoto’s most popular fusion ensemble forms something a little greater than the sum of its parts. Three years of tinkering with structures and honing sonorities have only made this new and arresting sound even harder to classify — and more difficult to forget. Don’t miss your chance to hear YUGAO, live at ZAC BARAN!
From the top left clockwise: Yoshida Koichi (shakuhachi), Ikeda Ippei (piano), William Prunkl (cello) and Fujisawa Bayan (tabla).
“Flamenco is a gypsy/Andalusian art with its own language, which is spreading throughout the whole world, from Andalusia to Japan, and reaching the depths of all hearts without discrimination.”
- Carmen Alvarez
Another fantastic show from Yugao at Parker House Roll last night, and it was made all the more special when their special surprise guest, Carmen Alvarez, joined them on stage! Not content with their current blend of jazz, classical, traditional Japanese music and Indian percussion – they have added flamenco to the mix! Here are three videos from their performance.
This tune, “Takeda’s lullaby” (竹田の子守唄) is a traditional tune from our own dear city of Kyoto. Koichi opened our “Voices for Umekoji” event with this same tune a couple of weeks ago.
Carmen Alvarez joined Koichi on stage for “Tribute to Kumano Kodo” (熊野古道に捧ぐ). I wonder if anyone has danced flamenco to this tune before? It’s an unusual combination – but it works!
Finally, here is Carmen again with the full band and their rendition of Chick Corea’s “Spain”. I saw them play this last summer and at that time Carmen happened to be in the audience and supplied some hand claps and jaleo type shouts. This time she was part of the performance and she was beautiful!
Yugao & Carmen Alvarez are playing again tonight (Sunday February 6th) at Zac Baran. Check here for details.
From the top left clockwise: Yoshida Koichi (shakuhachi), Ikeda Ippei (piano), William Prunkl (cello) and Fujisawa Bayan (tabla).
Shakuhachi player Yoshida Koichi will also be joining folk band Udonya Mentei’s Super Band (another “Voices for Umekoji” participant) for a show at legendary live house Jittoku on Sunday February 13th. Tickets are only 1000 yen and the show starts at seven. Here is a map.
My musical repertoire is a culmination of my experiences living in and traveling to various countries, my background in lingusitics, and my love for world cultures – wrapped in a ribbon of jazz. I perform jazz-influenced music of Brazil, Italy, France, Latin America (Cuba, Argentina, Mexico), Japan, and of course the US – all with a contemporary twist of swing, Latin rhythms, funk, gypsy jazz, and blues. Allison Adams Tucker
Jazz vocalist Allison Adams Tucker wrote to tell me that she will be performing in Kansai next month:
I was invited to be a showcase artist at the 1st Annual Kansai Music Conference in Osaka (Sept 19-20), and have booked a Japan Tour around this. I’ll be performing in Kyoto on Sept 14th at Blue Note (in my favorite area of town near Kiyamachi), Osaka (Azul 9/15 & Jazz On Top 9/20 with the Phillip Strange Trio), and Tokyo (Body & Soul 9/22, joining Tommy Campbell’s “Vocal Session Band” with Toku).
She was also kind enough to send me a copy of her debut CD “Come With Me” which I’ve been listening to today whilst pottering about the house. Continue reading →
Our old friend Yoshida Koichi has written to tell me he has a show coming up next week in Gion. Along with Koichi’s shakuhachi (Japanese flute) there will be a pianist and bass player performing a set of jazz classics such as Take Five, Summertime and In a Sentimental Mood. There will also be a joint performance with a biwa (Japanese lute) player. The performance is next Wednesday (July 22nd) from 20:00 ~ 22:00. The charge is 2000 yen plus another 1000 yen for a drink. The location is the bar “Funny Company” (Tel: ０７５－５６１－８６７１).
I first met Yoshida Koichi in the music bar Hawkwind. A shakuhachi player, he told me he plays in many styles, not just traditional, but jazz, folk, avant garde, new age, pretty much anything. In Hawkwind we were listening to some hip-hop. “How about this then?” I challenged him with a grin. And do you know, he stood up immediately, he played, and it was wonderful. I was very impressed (not least because he had obviously had a few). Koichi is still but a student of shakuhachi though, so he supports himself by working part-time at the jazz cafe, bar and diner Zac Baran. I decided to go and visit him there in the New Year.
Zac Baran, is listed in 新版 京都音楽空間 (Kyoto Music Spot Guide) as one of the “legendary places” of Kyoto. It first opened in 1977 during Kyoto’s jazz boom along with other great jazz cafes like Yamatoya and Lush Life. Zac Baran is not so strict about the jazz as those other locations though. In the entryway you will find a stash of over 2000 old vinyl records that includes blues and latin music and the current management are clearly not averse to a bit of rock guitar too. When I visited I found myself watching DVDs of The Police, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Nirvana on the big screen. Not what I was expecting! Among the succession of owners Zac Baran has had over the years, one was clearly a fan of the Freak Brothers as their images are all over the walls. I asked current owner Nakano Koji what kind of people come here now. “We get musicians, not so many salarymen… students from the nearby university… doctors and nurses from the nearby hospital…”
“And maybe a few patients too!” quipped regular customer Kikuchi Yousuke. He himself is a jazz pianist. “Why don’t Koichi and I play a little something for you?” he said and so they gave an impromptu performance which you can see at the end of this post. First here are some pictures to give you a flavour of the place:
The drinks menu here is reasonably priced. A draft beer will cost you ￥600. Spirits and cocktails cost between ￥600 – ￥750. They also have coffee and soft drinks. Food is cheap too and they have a big range of dishes to choose from (on an English menu!): pizza, curry, noodles, stir fries, quiche, etc. Live music events are frequent, and the space can be rented for parties. As for the atmosphere? It’s a dimly lit but friendly place in which to meet interesting and sometimes very talented people. Zac Baran means frank speech or straight talking, and that being its guiding principal, this is a place where you can relax and freely speak your mind. Zac Baran is on the north side of Marutamachi a short walk east of Higashioji Dori. Here is a most convenient map. Open everyday 18:00 ~ 04:00.
Here’s that video for you:
Next post:The curiously named Sheep’s Public Cafe.
Here’s a pleasant respite from the madding crowds of Teramachi. Escape to the soft lighting and background jazz of the 2nd or 3rd floor cafes and order yourself a healthy lunch. This is also a bakery so pasta, pizza or a nutritious salad can be ordered for lunch with a パン食べ放題 or all-you-can-eat-bread deal. Here are some items off the lunchtime menu:
Not sure about the pizza lunch, as we had all-you-can-eat bread with ours… but maybe we weren’t supposed to!
Here’s a link to the Japanese menu. Be aware that the menu for the 3rd floor shop is different. Opening hours are 12：00～23：00 (lunchtime:12：00～15：00) with no holidays! Boogaloo Cafe & Deli is on the 2nd and 3rd floors of the 詩の小路 (shinokoji) building on Teramachi, between Shijo and Nishiki Dori. Here is a most convenient map.
Telephone (2F):075-213-1610 (3F): 075-213-1066
This is a chain so you can also find boogaloo cafes on Shijo and Karasuma. Check out the website for some nice pictures: LINK
In all fairness, you can’t very well see a sign like this and not go in, can you really? Don’t worry though, I’m not going to indulge myself in silly jokes about breasts. That’s already been done for me (curses!). I’m including Tits Cafe here, because it’s actually a really nice place; all warm and snug and comforting… Ah. Ok, – let’s focus on the menu, shall we?
Despite being nominally a cafe, Tits’s specialty is tea. They have all kinds of tea (averaging about ￥600 a pot) from the standards (Earl Grey, Darjeeling, Assam, Jasmine, Keemun) to the not so (Jipang and Choco Truffe). Then there are the fruit flavored varieties: Fruits Garden, Muscat, Pear, Pineapple, Lychee, and Mango Indica. For the sweet-toothed there are the vanilla teas: Almond, Maple Honey, Caramel Custard, and Strawberry Cream. And for the health-conscious there are herb teas; Mint, Chamomile, Red Orange, Red Spice… The menu also helpfully recommends a cake best suited to accompany each tea. Spoil yourself to home-made cheesecake, chiffon, chocolate gateaux, honey waffles or pudding parfait.
In this quiet location on Ayanokouji Dori you can also get a full meal: curry, pasta, doria, omlette or steak and they have a range of products such as tea-cosies, coasters and cushions made from kimono fabric. So why the name? I had to ask. The girl behind the counter said it meant “ゆったりしたこと” which can be translated as calm, unhurried or relaxed. “Ah, so it’s a Japanese word then?” I asked. “Yes,” said the girl and by this time I was finding it hard to keep a straight face and the girl was blushing (probably been asked this before) so I left it at that. But then outside my Japanese friend said “That’s not any Japanese word I’ve ever heard of…”, so the mystery continues, though there does appear to be a Japanese jazz band also named “ティッツ” and they do play jazz in the cafe so maybe that has something to do with it…
Tits Cafe is open from 11:30 ~ 20:00. To find Ayanokouji Dori go one street south of Shijo. Tits Cafe sits between Tominokouji Dori and Yanaginobanba. Here is a most helpful map. Tel: 075-344-3441
This delightful cafe first opened in 1970 and has since become another of Kyoto’s much loved “legendary places”. I guarantee you will be pleased as punch to find this cafe. Though the menu is not especially pricey, the interior is absolutely gorgeous. No expense has been spared on the state of the art audio equipment, the elegant furniture or its upkeep. And you may find yourself wanting to bow down and worship before the fantastic jazz collection in the far corner of the establishment. The key thing about Yamatoya is the loving attention to detail, which extends even to using the freshest spring water (drawn that day from the source) for their coffee. And their coffee tastes good. Come in, relax, soak up the elegant atmosphere, listen to some classic tunes and spoil yourself – all for the price of a ￥500 cup of coffee. You may never go back to Starbucks again. Here are some pictures. As always you can click through to flickr for a closer look.
To find Yamatoya, go east on Marutamachi Dori, and not long after you have passed Higashioji Dori you should see a sign on the road reading “Yamatoya Jazz Spot” and pointing you down a wee alleyway on your right. Here is a map.
Open 12:00 p.m. ~ 24:00 a.m. every day but Wednesday.
GOSPEL is in word: posh. It’s the sort of place you would bring your mum or a favorite aunty when she comes to visit. I’d recommend treating her to the scone set with a hot pot of orange pekoe tea. She’d like that.
This beautiful old western-style building sits on a corner of Shishigatani Street looking like something out of a fairytale. Step in through the rose garden and on up to the second floor (the ground floor is an antiques shop) then enter the spacious cafe. Many of the stylish ladies and gents here are wearing kimono and yukata and the style of the place makes you feel like you have stepped into a novel from the 1920s. The name “Gospel” refers to “good news” and not the music, for on the turntable gentle jazz is spinning and soft light filters in through the windows. Let’s take a look at the menu.
Blended Coffee: ￥600 Lowenbrau Beer 1 pint: ￥800 1/2 pint: ￥550 Viennese Coffee: ￥650 Guiness Beer 1 pint: ￥800 1/2 pint: ￥650 Cafe au Lait: ￥650 Scone: ￥700 All Herb Teas: ￥850 Cake: ￥500 Scone Set (with a pot of tea / coffee / juice): ￥1,300 Cake Set (as above): ￥1,050 Herb Tea Set (with cake or scones): ￥1,300
Please note that the scones are freshly baked after you order them and so take about twenty minutes (but they are rather good). They also have a range of spaghetti and gratin dishes at ￥900 and various curries at around ￥1,200. Here are some pictures you can double click on for a closer look:
To find Gospel Cafe, go east on Imadegawa Dori, cross Shirakawa and continue up Tetsugaku no michi (The Philospher’s Walk) until you reach Shishigatani Street (鹿ケ谷通), turn right onto that and it’s a little way down there on your right. It’s big and white like a wedding cake and you can’t miss it. Here’s a map just in case: MAP. Opening hours: 12:00 p.m. – 12:00 am every day but Tuesdays. Tel: 075-751-9380.