Most evenings, jazz in Tokyo is squashed into a minuscule four hours, politely finishing early enough for customers to catch the last train home. By other countries’ standards, the lack of a late-night set starting at 11 or midnight is almost unbelievable. On New Year’s Eve, however, all that changes. Tokyo trains run all night, meaning that jazz clubs can stay open all night. The past few years, jazz clubs have done just that, creating a different kind of pilgrimage altogether. At clubs around Tokyo, crowds ring in the New Year listening to live jazz. The liveliness and informality of these clubs on this evening is a special treat. Most clubs feature their regulars, groups who have made the club a home for their music. Especially nice are the rotating sets, each about an hour or so (time starts stretching after midnight), giving listeners a great introduction to many different groups. Also good is when musicians, who rarely have a night off from their regular groups, get to link up with long-lost friends and former band mates to jump in on free-for-all jams. Even musicians not booked hop up and play, to the limits of their sobriety. Also recommended is staying awake for the second wind, kicking in around 4 a.m. At that point, many musicians, who are just as superstitious as anyone else with “firsts” of the year, will want to start off with a first intense solo to give themselves good luck for the rest of the year.
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