i used to maintain these pages for jazz musicians looking for jam sessions in Tokyo & Amsterdam; it hasn’t been updated since 2018 (for Tokyo) and 2021 (for Amsterdam). make sure to check if the places still exist before heading out!
Try the Google Map.
Primarily this page is intended to help English-speaking jazz musicians find places to jam in Tokyo.
This is not a comprehensive list, and I just give some of my opinions on various jams. I’m more of a fusion player, so expect a bit of a bias for modern funk and groove stuff. Yokohama (south-west of Tokyo) has an excellent jazz scene and yearly festival, but currently I’m not including that information here. Another good resource for jams (only in Japanese) is Jazz.co.jp. This is reasonably comprehensive for trad jazz, but there are still plenty of omissions, especially for other genres.
Most jams in Tokyo are very welcoming and run with musicians in mind – it’s much more of a friendly community scene than London (where it’s all about money) and New York (where it’s about blowing the guy next to you off of the stage). There are lots of places where you can hang out and have lots of opportunities to play, though one “downside” is that even musicians are generally expected to pay a cover charge in the area of ¥1000-¥2000. At first this may seem unfair, but it has to be admitted that musicians are often the only customers for the bars, and this system seems to allow many bars to thrive (whereas in London, jazz bars are constantly closing down (or becoming commercial parodies of jazz bars (Ronnie Scott’s!))). On the plus side, if you get a gig, due to cover charges you will generally make a much more reasonable amount than you would in London.
A jazz bar/school with jams or lessons of various level all day, every day. B1 floor holds mostly trad jazz jams, while the B2 floor has a lot of R&B, funk, groove, and sometimes concerts. Cover charge includes free drinks! The B1 Saturday jam is somewhat higher level, and one can call just about anything from trad to modern, etc. The B2 jams tend to be run by young new musicians during the week, but depending on the host band there are some high-level jams, often at the weekend. (No Smoking)
Absolute Blue, Ikebukuro
Opened in 2015. Despite the location a little bit more upmarket; very nice interior and drinks. Frequent but irregular sessions – seem to generally be a bit higher-level, but still fun and a good variety of stuff. (No Smoking)
Golden Egg, Shinjuku
Probably the most central location possible for a jazz bar. Smoky crowded basement bar, very frequent and varying jam sessions; some particularly excellent host bands.
Jam Session, Okachimachi
Probably the most aptly-named bar on this page, and one of the few music bars in the north/west side of Tokyo. As of 2017, this bar has moved almost exclusively to doing simple rock and 12-bar-blues jams.
Jazz Bird, Omotesando
Up-market traditional jazz bar in a trendy area. One Sunday jam a month, perhaps just a little expensive at ¥2500 (two drinks included). Theoretically there is a separate vocal session in the afternoon, but this seems to spill over into the rest of the night, and take up about half of the songs (other than vocalists, mostly trumpet players in attendance). The atmosphere is a little stuffy, but everybody there is quite friendly. And if (unlike me) you really have your chops in Trad jazz, probably a good place to play (or impress a date?). I wonder if my writing contains too many parentheses.
Cafe Dolce Vita, Okubo
Fairly spacious basement bar just north of Shinjuku. Weekly jazz jams on Monday, and funk etc. on Thursday. Website is incredibly 1990s-esque but if you can figure out how to read the schedule, definitely worth a visit. Depending on the host band which changes each week, levels seem to vary from beginner to advanced. (No Smoking)
One of the classic and most popular jazz bars, well over 40 years old. A great if very smoky little bar, with jams almost every day, and late jams on Fridays (to 3am) and Saturdays (to 5am). Often pro Japanese and foreign musicians tend to drop by the late night jams. A focus on trad jazz and standards, as you’d expect, though sometimes a little bit of modern jazz creeps in.
Elektric Jinja, Roppongi
I’ve heard this is where the top guys on tour tend to drop by these days, and the playing can be pretty cutting-edge, though haven’t spent much time there yet myself. Sessions are irregular and often don’t start until late at night. If you’re brave enough to face Roppongi at midnight, and wait for the early morning train, worth a look!
Very regular, incredibly funky funk jams. The sort of place where a one-chord-jam actually turns out really musical and funky, and many nights are dedicated to this kind of free jazz-funk. Some nights are more for actual tunes; even Fusion sessions where stuff like Weather Report might be called. Sessions tend to start a little later than advertised.
Tiny (cozy?) basement bar a little west of central Tokyo. It’s hard to find the information on the net, but there is at least a Jam every Sunday afternoon, 14:00 – 17:00, then again in the evening. All levels are welcome, ¥1000 entry.
Music Bar RPM (formerly “Colored Jam”), Shimo-Kitazawa
Fairly high-level “all-genre” frequent jam sessions, with a focus on funky stuff, with many great host bands playing almost every day. Great atmosphere, if a bit smoky, and very well-mixed gin and tonics.
Kikuna Live & Jam, Kikuna
Evening jams 365 days a year, halfway between Yokohama and Tokyo. A super relaxed and friendly atmosphere (and cheap beer) make this a great place to jam anytime, even for beginning musicians at a lower level. On the other hand, it’s quite far out of town (and maybe not the sort of place to impress a date, for example). All types of instrument are available to borrow, and during the day it’s possible to hire for rehearsal.
A nice traditional-jazz club with many afternoon and evening jams. Clean and modern, with food available. Mostly trumpet, sax (etc.) players in attendance. (No Smoking)
Back in Time, Koiwa
Cafe/bar in a bit of a dodgy area, but the bar itself is nice and recently became non-smoking. The “fusion” session in particular has an impressive list of tunes, and lots of advanced stuff that gets played well (not just Canteloupe Island!). (No Smoking)
A small bar in Chiba-ken, with two jams a month – one traditional; and one “everything else” – free, fusion, funk etc. (which can be interesting!), with mostly guitarists in attendance. The owner is very knowledgeable about the scene, speaks English well, and has a very impressive collection of CDs and records.
Studio Wuu, Kashiwa
Very friendly guys and a large, nice bar. Every month there is a jazz jam, a funk jam, and a “right-brain” jam (the premise being I think, to get away from the standard blues-jam-session and play some stuff that doesn’t usually come up in jam sessions). The jazz jam is a bit too crowded but the other two are great fun. (No Smoking)
All of Me, Roppongi
A good example of one of many of Tokyo’s old-fashioned jazz clubs, with expensive drinks and a lot of old men in jackets singing standards from the 50s. They have free all-night sessions most days with a single host musician, so if you miss the last train, you can drop by and practice some trad jazz. I think the drumkit might only be set up on the Friday night session, which has an entry fee.
Some irregular jam sessions, depends very much on the day but there are some good ones. (No Smoking)
Little Giant, Jiyugaoka
An off-the-beaten track, but nice and spacious, local jazz bar with sessions every second Saturday.
Sound Gallery Slope, Meguro
Nice clean little cafe, with a music school (or something like that?) in the basement, and some irregular but weekly-ish jazz or R&B jam sessions. Very cheap entry, drinks, and food.
Since April 2018 I’ve moved to Amsterdam. People have told me that the Tokyo Jam Sessions page was useful, so here’s the same information for Amsterdam and the surrounding cities!
Jam sessions in Amsterdam are quite different than Tokyo or London. They often have a lot of people coming just to watch and enjoy, so really a lot of fun to be had if you’re confident in those kinds of situations. Also, generally there will be no entry charge, and even a free beer if you play. On the other hand, usually the house band will play by themselves for most of the evening – musicians in attendance will only get to join in on one or two tracks each, as closing time approaches. If you want to play, you have to actively try and convince the host musicians to let you do so (some places are particularly bad at this and really should not be using the phrase “jam session” at all).
Style-wise, Amsterdam and its music conservatory are known as one of the top centres for traditional jazz in Europe, so expect a heavy focus on traditional stuff and a high level. Unfortunately, this seems to lead to many old-fashioned and cliquey sessions, with no musical goal other than to blow the other guys off the stage by calling obscure tunes at 300 BPM. There’s almost no modern jazz or funk; however there is a bit of a fun rock / blues scene. Sessions in other Dutch cities tend to be a lot more chilled out, and open to playing a wider variety of tunes.
Lastly make sure to call or check online to see whether or not the session is on before you head out – sessions start up & shut down frequently, so this page may be outdated. It’s also common for sessions to take days off, and from Jul. ~ Oct. almost all sessions shut down due to the summer holidays at the conservatory.
Brasserie Nel – Jazz
Like many Amsterdam sessions, high-level serious 1950s jazz stuff only.
Bourbon Street – Rock / Pop
Good energy, lots of listeners / dancers. Get ready to play crowd pleasers.
Cafe Stiel’s – Classic Funk / Soul
In Haarlem. From Amsterdam, 10 minutes by train and 10 minutes walk. Late session, jam starts nearer to midnight.
De Twee Spieghels, Leiden Jazz / Modern
21:00~24:00. Nice old pub in a beautiful area of Leiden. Sessions can be traditional or modern / groovy jazz depending on the night.
The Water Hole – Rock / Pop / Funk
Mostly rock & pop, but a pro house band that can play jazz & funk also.
Bimhuis – Free Jazz / Jazz
20:00 ~ 22:00 Free Jazz Workshop. Interesting workshop, focus on musicality. Beautiful venue, experienced and helpful (if strict!) host.
22:00 ~ Jazz Concert and Jam. Mega fast bebop nonsense, nothing else allowed.
‘t Oude Pothuys, Utrecht – Various
25 minutes train and 15 minutes walk from Amsterdam. Brazilian, Soul, Hip-Hop, etc. depending on the week.
Uitvlugt – Jazz
20:00 ~ 23:00. Casual, low level jazz session.
The Water Hole – Rock
Pure rock; think guitarist-vocalists and Nirvana covers.
De Kring – Jazz
1st and 3rd Wed., from 21:30. Bebop.
Archie’s Ship – Jazz
2nd and 4th Wednesdays. Nice venue on the house-boat of the host, older crowd, but again more bebop. When I went there was no drum kit.
Cafe De Pianist – Jazz
20:00 ~ 23:00. Casual, all-levels-allowed jazz session. Jam starts from the first tune. On roughly every 2nd Tuesday.
De Peper – Jazz
Super cool organic cafe, book for dinner. Jazz from 21:00, cool atmosphere, mostly young conservatory guys and more bebop, but sometimes with exceptions.
Maloe Melo – Blues
From 21:30. Classic smoky blues cafe. Often has sessions on other nights also.
Bird, Rotterdam – Jazz
Not advertised on the website, but I heard there’s a late-night session.
Crackers, Haarlem – Rock
21:00 ~ 24:00. Very casual session in a sketchy rock cafe – 12 bar blues, 60s rock, etc.
Cafe Ruimzicht, Leimuiden – Jazz / Blues
Bit in the middle of nowhere, but supposed to be a nice blues or jazz session (alternating each week).
Jitterbug Saloon – Groove / Jazz Fusion
21:00 ~ 01:00. My session! At the moment every 3rd Friday of the month. Focussed on improvised groove stuff, but we also try to play some funk, jazz, or fusion tunes.
Cafe Gollem, Overtoom Branch – Jazz
20:30 ~ 21:30 set, 21:30 ~ 23:30 jam. Nice pub and atmosphere.
Mostly Jazz or Latin, but the focus varies each week and they are more chilled about playing other stuff. Usually no keys equipment available.
Plan West – Jazz
New session every 2nd Sunday – AFAIK another jazz session by the conservatory guys.
De Engelbewaarder – Jazz
Afternoon jazz jam, 16:30 ~ 19:00. Nice pub but very crowded & traditional tunes.
Victoria Hotel – Jazz
Every 2nd Sunday, trad vocal jazz in suits in a hotel bar. 17:00 ~ 20:00
Session near the end after a gig.
Cafe Zilt – Jazz
1st Sunday only, afternoon
Crackers, Haarlem – Rock
21:00 ~ 24:00, same as the Thursday session.
Very popular groove-based event. This is the only place in Amsterdam to play modern jazz-groove stuff with professional, youngish musicians, but anyone can join playing all different kinds of styles. Definitely my favourite Amsterdam session, but due to the irregular schedule / location and high popularity, sometimes you get to play a lot and sometimes not at all.
AmsterJam Meetup – All
Casual meetup, mostly beginners (note the capital J and don’t get confused with Amsterjam…!).
Casablanca – Karaoke
Most nights, 23:00 ~ 03:00
De Ruimte – Jazz
Held irregularly, but mostly Sundays.
Unconfirmed / Other…
La Pien Noir, Haarlem – Unknown
Miles, Amersfoort – Monday 20:00 (casual jam?), Friday 23:00 Jam
Studio de Veste – ?
Rootz, Den Haag – Sunday 24:00 – groove jam?
Zaal 100, Amsterdam – Tuesday 21:00 jazz cafe, Thursday jazz workshop?
cafe Septermber – tuesday evening, standard jazz?
it would be remiss of me to not mention that my own jazz bar JazzCube has a jam session every Monday night