Live Music for Eight

Last Saturday night, sitting with the band at the Apollo.

Last Saturday night, sitting with the band at the Apollo.

Remember how I was talking about shoebox-sized businesses here in Tokyo? Well, around the corner from Eat A Peach in Shimokitazawa is the Apollo Jazz Bar. As you walk by on the narrow street outside, the sound of pro musicians jamming wafts up the steps from this basement grotto, calling you in like the Pied Piper. Apollo has seats for eight, and the players often outnumber the audience. The owner’s taste is eclectic: one night it’s Afro-Jazz, the next it’s Brazilian, Blues, or Progressive, but it’s always astoundingly top-notch. You can sit at the bar with your drink, or at one of the tables right in the middle of the band, watching the guitarist with lightning fast fingers, and the drummer who sounds like about ten guys rolled into one.

Q: In the world’s most expensive city, how much do you think an evening like this costs?

A: A little over $20 for the cover charge and a beer.

Last Saturday’s lineup featured a drummer who plays with a famous band, a six-string bass player and Takayuki Otsuka, the guitarist with blurry fingers. But do me a favor: please don’t tell anybody! I want there always to be a place at Apollo for ME!

Here is the Apollo’s schedule (in Japanese, but you can read the dates and type of music easily). If you want to hear Takayuki Otsuka play, here’s his gig schedule.

If you’d like to visit the Apollo in Shimo-kitazawa the next time you’re in Tokyo, maps are on my website, The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had.

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