Tokyo jazz club Lydian quickly entered the list of favorite places to listen to live jazz that had opened in the past decade. This jazz spot took a listener-friendly approach and created a completely enjoyable experience with great audio and lighting. Lydian was in business for about seven years, steadily gaining traction with local jazz musicians and fans until closing down earlier this year.
In addition to writing about jazz albums, I also like to share information about jazz clubs as well. Usually, these locations are still in business and anyone can visit them, but sometimes a live spot will close all of a sudden. Hopefully, the memory of these special places, even when no longer open, will continue to inspire others to search for and visit similar places. As with all the posts here, all impressions and photos were gathered through personal first-hand experience. As for Lydian’s closing, there is the possibility of this location reopening under a new name…
Lydian is simple and neat, professionally but not uncomfortably quiet, with prime recorded jazz music playing before the live music starts. The room is nice and organized, more like a low-key mini concert hall than a bustling bar or cacophonous club.
The wide stage with its glossy black piano takes up one end of the room and is dramatically bathed in neon blue lights and dark colors. From the stage, tidy rows of chairs and tables fill up the space like theater seating. The impression is that of high-quality, even polite, recital-hall listening, with a feeling that something special will be created by the night’s performance, something exciting and improvised, sophisticated and comfortable.
Also resembling a theater experience is the pay-as-you-enter system near the entrance (compared to restaurant-style billing at the end), where you can purchase a drink on your way in. There are no full meals, but small bites like quiche or cake may be available depending on the day.
The interior of Lydian is straightforward and easy to settle into. There are few distractions, with no jumble of flyers, posters, or flashy decorations to take the focus away from the music. Non-drinkers may also appreciate that Lydian, not being a typical jazz bar, creates less pressure to order drink after drink (although, alcoholic drinks are certainly available). In addition, the shows start and end relatively early, so there’s not much risk of staying too late. After the performance is over, there are often opportunities for chatting with the musicians or other customers and taking photos.
Finally, in addition to live performances, Lydian’s calendar also included jam sessions, workshops, and lectures on jazz topics organized by the owner Takao Nagakawa, who at the same time published over a hundred issues of a popular jazz-oriented newsletter.
As for the mysterious-sounding name Lydian, jazz musicians will likely recognize this from a specific musical scale, a mode or version of the major scale with a raised fourth, like the sound of playing the white keys on a piano from F to F. This characteristic sound is said to be expansive, dreamy, and uplifting, just to pick a few examples. These are the types of harmonious qualities were also shared by the modern jazz club Lydian and the music that was performed there for a while.
For more information:
Lydian's website(obsolete, but archived snapshots are available)
Located near Ogawamachi and Awajicho stations in Tokyo
Note: Lydian has permanently closed. This article is shared in its original form to preserve its memory. This location may be reopening in the future under a new name.