man tells all
a column by bass player and musicologist Hans Mantel, on his current state of mindmaestro mantel
One on the Kissa
During a recent visit to Japan where I was making a television documentary on the Tokyo jazzscene,
I found out how crazy the Japanese really are about jazz.
I knew, of course, that jazz record sales in Japan are the highest in the world
and that Japanese audiences are among the best a jazz musician (or any other musician)
could wish for. The Japanese take their music and the consumption thereof as
seriously as they do anything else, from the preparation of that glorious food
and the art of origami to clothing and drinking tea.
All with that incredible concentration thatís central to everything they do.
I marvelled at the incredible level of aesthetics that is so evident in everything you see.
From the way they packed my sashimi lunch at the counter of a local supermarket
to the way the colors of the various textiles in my hotelroom were matched by the maid
who made my room every morning. There was a dark brown band accross my blanket
and the soft yellow night shirt that the hotel supplies lies on the bed perpendicular to the band.
Off-center with one Ė fifth of the shirt on the band...... For someone who has a sensibility
for that kind of detail Japan is a sheer delight.
I was pondering this when I walked into a Japanese tea house, a Kissa, somewhere on the
egde of the very centre of this 36 million people metropolis.
I had heard about the Eagle Kissa. It is a basement club that seats about 35
people with a typical Japanese interior with all the wooden walls.
Dark wooden blinds seperate the various tables, there's a polished wooden
floor and, of course, beautifully polished dark wooden tables.
Originally a tea house, the Eagle Kissa now also serves alcohol.
But thatís not the surprise.
That comes as soon as you walk in:
itís a jazz tea house.
Next to the bar is a very tiny cubicle packed with 10.000 vinyl jazz records
(and yes, theyíre the best jazz records you could possibly find and theyíre all originals)
where a young man plays these all day long.
And hereís the thing.
A superior speaker system plays these records for the customer
and as the sign by the door says:
Speaking Is Forbidden.
You canít talk!!!!
Business men and students sit at their tables by themselves with their eyes closed
and their heads back against the wall while their tea cools or their ice cubes
melt into their drinks. Others read the newspaper or scribble something
in little note books. I sat in a corner just as a great John Coltrane record came on.
Because of the situation I sank straight into the music to a deeper level than I
normally achieve in a public place. I heard every detail and nuance in the music
and it made me feel great!!
I didnít want to leave and I had the feeling I could have stayed there all day and
just immerse myself in the music. I came back on the street feeling elated and rested
(althoughI had only been inside for half an hour).
As I climbed the steps back into the sunlight I thought: Why donít we have this at home?
Imagine a place like that around the corner from your work, where you can go
for lunch or after work and to let, as Longfellow says, 'the cares that infest the day
folds their tents like the Arabs and as silently steal away'.