Music | JAZZ NOTES

Tokyo jazz landmark Pit Inn celebrates 50 years

by Frank Spignese

Special To The Japan Times

Tokyo is a jazz lover’s paradise — only New York can claim to have as many clubs and live houses to choose from. Though, the high-end clubs that pull in the big acts can cost a fortune, populated with patrons who are more interested in showing off their secretaries than actively listening to the music.

On the flip side are the tiny live houses that can often feel like amateur-hour jam sessions with fledgling musicians getting their feet wet as they hone their chops. Luckily, we have the Pit Inn.

Celebrating its 50th year, Shinjuku’s Pit Inn is the oasis that keeps on giving. It showcases ear-bending avant-garde one night, more straight-ahead fare the next and throws stage time to the occasional female vocalist plowing her way through the Burt Bacharach catalog. It’s bare-bones and basic, but not such a complete dive that the soles of your shoes stick suspiciously to the floor.

In honor of its half century, the Pit will feature a series of shows celebrating some of its downtown denizens. Tonight, bassist Hiroaki Mizutani leads a 13-piece big band featuring a number of the venue’s regulars. A sometime collaborator with local legends Otomo Yoshihide and Akira Sakata, Mizutani, can be guaranteed to please fans of more esoteric sounds. Stopping by for a drink is highly recommended.

Hiroaki Mizutani plays the Shinjuku Pit Inn in Tokyo on Jan. 23 (8 p.m. start; ¥3000 in advance; 03-3354-2024) For more information, visit www.pit-inn.com.