When Luis Valle first came to Tokyo four years ago, he had a hard time. At his first trumpet sessions, he was hitting those way-high notes and his solos were hard and fast, but reading the jazz charts was something else.

In Cuba, where Valle grew up, musicians learn to play together by listening to each other and practicing. But in Tokyo, because of the expense and difficulty of scheduling rehearsals, Japanese jazz musicians have to rely on their ability to sight-read quickly. Right before a gig, they get that night’s written charts, divide up the solos, smoke a cigarette and play. In Cuba, musicians might practice and rehearse all afternoon.

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