Scenes from the Jazz Scene
Mix Dynamite. Is it a description or a command? Both,
perhaps, and only incidentally a band name; but also an
unwitting Zen riddle (k¯ oan) inducing sudden and shock-
ing enlightenment, like the monk’s bamboo cane across the
shoulders. . . .
As the sounds of swing fade in the October twilight, borne
by Yokohama’s sea breezes to destinations unknown, my
companions and I decide to Mix Dynamite. The Sharps
and Flats Big Band have just finished a swinging set on
board an ocean liner docked in the harbor. An all-day jazz
tour of the port city is coming to a close, but we have a taste
for one more band. What we had heard throughout the day
had been familiar, usually pleasing, utterly professional,
if never earth shattering. One more band, we agree, to cool
us out, send us home mellow. We climb the stairs to a loft
dubbed Airegin (Nigeria spelled backwards) after Sonny
Rollins’s tune—a comparatively normal appellation in a
country where jazz bars bear playful names such as Down
Home, Jazz Inn Something, Relaxin’ at Daddy, Dig, Dug,
4 Why Y, Place Where Lee Konitz Plays, Tom, Rug Time,
Jam Jam, Coltrane Coltrane, and Fan Fan.
The joint is cramped beyond belief, youthful jazz bu√s
sitting shoulder to shoulder like commuters on Tokyo’s
famously congested trains. Jazz giants share wall space
with black children from a Harlem street scene—‘‘Jazz
Mobile Here Today!’’—but real live foreigners invite curious
glances, if not quite stares. Okay, cool, so the gaijin want
to Mix Dynamite. Of course, they have no idea what they’re
in for.
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