Looking back on 2013, I think some of the strongest jazz releases I heard were from young people in the industry. I know, it's a bit too far into the new year to be retrospective, but it has led me to consider the possibility for a jazz renaissance of sorts in Japan.

The scene here is often seen as being on the decline: The main fan base is aging and nostalgia seems to be restricted to Showa Pop. Bar owners I've spoken to tend to stand by that old Duke Ellington line, "It don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that swing." To qualify as jazz, it seems the music has to have the swing and groove of classic 1950s and '60s sounds or should involve standards from the Great American Songbook.

The jazz net has been expanding for a while, though, and plenty of artists in Japan fall into new subgenres that, inspired by groundbreaking acts such as the Esbjorn Svensson Trio, draw on rock, techno or classical music influences that incorporate the arrangements and spirit of jazz.