Red Note (レッドノットジャズバー)


Last night my wife and I went out to a jazz bar with some friends.  The place was called Red Note and, though I’d heard of it several times, I’d never been.

Parking can be tricky in this town, so most people (unless they know someone who knows someone who knows someone) cut the lights and lock the doors by the park and hike to their destination.  That’s just what we did.  We walked down a couple of darkened streets, witnessed drunk people urinating on the side of a building, crossed a couple of intersections and made it to the staircase that would take us to the 3rd floor.

The concept of a jazz bar has always been kind of cool to me – a place to hang out with friends and watch some live jazz band soothe you into the evening.  We stepped in the bar and knew we were in the right place.  Not because there was jazz playing, but because we recognized the people we planned to meet.

The motif of the bar meshed well with its name – or was it the other way around?  All the walls were a deep sensuous red with posters of some of the greats: Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, and Duke Ellington.  Tools of the trade ( guitars, saxophones, trombones, drums, etc.) hung from the back wall awaiting the return of those who had last placed them.  Two tall speakers were stacked in the rooms two back corners, and the tables were selectively positioned outside the alloted oval area of the expected band.

The bar was one of the most impressive I’ve seen.  Being a teetotaler, the ‘bar’ isn’t my particular area of expertise, but I know what I’ve experienced.  What I consider commonplace in a bar is loud music, people too drunk to order, a bartender that just wants to pump out as many drinks as he/she can to make the tip cup tilt, but who doesn’t really know his/her trade. Again, I’m no expert on bartending, nor do I claim to know what distinguishes a good bartender from a poor one.  But, from what I gathered of this place, the guy knew what he was doing.  I’m not just talking about the way he used those jiggers (oooh yeah!).

“He’s a true artist,”  said my friend.  It really showed.  I’ve never seen a bartender take as much time as this man did.  He used special cups, spoons, and tools I just wasn’t familiar with.  He topped the drinks that needed to be topped and swirled others in a certain artsy fashion.

Behind him was a wall of libations more extensive than I’d ever seen.  He was about my height (tall, dark, handsome) and the bottles that made up the wall behind him must have raised another four feet and spanned the length of the entire room.  He had the works – domestic, foreign, cheap, pricy, wine, whiskey, and everything else.  The menu (Japanese only) was arranged by what type of base the consumer was seeking.  It wasn’t anything I understood, but the man clearly knew what he was doing.

The evening sadly wasn’t complete for us.  Though we waited for musicians who were supposedly just “running late”, the jazz music didn’t happen.  The instruments remained still on the wall eager to be played by familiar hands and the posters of the jazz greats that stared back at us from around the Note promised that the place actually was the real deal.

There were no complaints, however.  We had a great time.  It was more about the evening’s company than the promises of entertainment.  We made that ourselves.  I even expect that we will be going back soon.  Whenever that evening is, I’d like to hear the sound that matches the walls.

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