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There’s just not enough time to write up every good jazz band in Tokyo. As the year draws to an end, I find myself with a backlog of quality musicians who play regularly in the capital. So, in order not to leave out any great picks, here’s a Christmas list for your listening pleasure. These players’ unique styles all offer something unusual. They are in the jazz tradition, but not quite of the jazz tradition. These groups work primarily with their own compositions, but also give standards a fresh overhaul. They all have recently released recordings, but are not studio bands. These are working bands who take their innovative music into live houses on a weekly, if not nightly, basis.

Three of the edgiest, quirkiest acts that provoke strong audience reactions are the bands Mull House and Bozo, and saxophonist Eiichi Hayashi. Mull House is led by guitarist Akihiro Ishiwatari, whose guitar has a distinctive fingering, miking and amping combination that produces a very idiosyncratic sound. This amalgamated style blends well with the hard-edged electric support from the rest of the quintet. Their recordings capture Ishiwatari’s compositions in forms that are both up- and off-beat. They mix funk, free jazz, blues and punk into their high-energy brew of startling, intriguing music.

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