When I first arrived in Nagoya, 10 May 08, I worked at Kanayama near the station. I’d heard from a friend that the good jazz bars in Nagoya were Star Eyes, Swing and Mr Kennys. He drew me a map on a napkin and I discovered Mr Kennys was near work. I walked there during my lunch break and slid my demo under the heavy door on the second floor of a small corner block opposite the JR train line.
The owner rang me that night and I furiously consulted my Japanese ‘point-and-speak’ guidebook. No success. You can never find the right page when you need it. He said he liked the CD. All I could manage was repeated efforts of sumimasen and arigatou gozaimasu. ben kiyo sheimasu. Gah. I found in the book how to say ‘I will come back’ and hung up simultaneously relieved and embarrassed by my pathetic knowledge of Japanese language.
I did return, with bass player Mr Yasuda, and played some songs with the musos jamming on the night. The owner seemed surly. I booked a gig. We pointed at our diaries to organise a date. They are so patient.
Since then, I’ve played at Mr Kennys several times. I highly recommend a visit to this small jazz bar in Kanayama. It is a relaxed yet serious jazz space. The grand piano and double bass take up most of the room but it creates a cosy atmosphere that screams of the swing era. There is a bit of jazz fusion style to the place – crazy iridescent blue streaks on the pylon and some walls. The owner plays guitar so five or six rare beasts hang on the wall next the piano and the long wooden bar is perfect for a casual drink while you tune into some fine performers.
The pylon divides the space so it’s difficult for performers to harness the whole room – you can’t look at everyone at once and people are literally right underneath you jammed around the tables. But it feels groovy, up close and personal. The way entertainment should be. Intense and engaging.
Space is a highly sought commodity in Japan and I am inspired and in awe of what they achieve, especially the venues. The spaces here are so jazz. So cool. If you want to feel as though you’re back in some 1950’s jazz den then get out to these brilliant venues. I guarantee you will see and hear stuff from world-class players.