On seeing the lineup ahead of this year's Tokyo Jazz Festival, my initial feeling was the organizers had maybe cast their net a bit too wide with the acts booked, but those fears were completely unfounded.
With the festival being held on three main stages (the International Forum Hall A, an outside stage at the Plaza and the Cotton Club), plus a side show Tokyo Jazz Café stage with some smaller events, careful planning was required for the fan who wanted to catch as much as possible. In fact, the way things were scheduled meant I didn't actually check any of the gigs at the Cotton Club, a venue that this year I felt wasn't used as effectively as it has been in the past.
The free Plaza gigs went out under the World Jazz Voyage banner and the first Friday evening act was, fittingly, Dereb The Ambassador, an Australian outfit fronted by Ethiopian-born vocalist Dereb Desalegn. Playing music inspired by the Ethiopian jazz-fusion sound of the 1970s (popularized in the "Ethiopiques" series of albums), the band delivered a tight set that got people moving. So much so that people in the seats who started dancing were told to sit down by over-zealous staff.