While on a short weekend visit to Taipei recently I decided to check the web and see if there was a jazz scene happening there. It was surprising to see the Blue Note come up right away..I was sure I knew all the BN locations in Asia. My Taipei-based friend told me it was right near a large train station and no problem for us to drop by so we gave a quick call to make sure they were open and then headed over.
It was a Sunday night with no live gig scheduled so the place was quiet at 8pm. The owner Mr. Tsai greeted us immediately and was kind enough to talk at length. He opened the joint in 1974 calling it Blue Note after his favorite record label, thus pre-dating the more famous BN locations in Japan. He also somehow got the rights to the BN name in Taiwan so although he has no relations to the current BN company, he can use the name and logo freely. He seemed quite amused when telling us that the heads of both BN America AND Japan had been to his place while in Taipei and they had no troubles.
Compared to your average Tokyo jazz spot it’s a large space with a stage in the middle. Some classic jazz albums cover one wall with quite a few framed portraits of musicians around the place (including Blind Lemon Jefferson hanging over the men’s urinal!) There are live gigs most nights of the week, usually a mix of local musicians and non-Chinese/Taiwanese. Mr. Tsai was proud to list off some of the heavy hitters that have dropped by there in years past, including Japanese legend Yamashita Yosuke. He told us though that there is not large enough a jazz scene in Taiwan right now to bring over expensive acts, even ones that may be touring in nearby Japan. I was happy to see that this September there is a big jazz festival happening at one of the cultural event halls in Taipei so hopefully this will create some new fans.
Having been open since 1974 I think Mr. & Mrs Tsai are doing fine with their beautiful establishment. It’s always a thrill to land somewhere new to me and find fellow jazz fans, even if we can’t understand each other! 加油 Mr.& Mrs. Tsai!
Read more about the Blue Note and the scene in Taiwan here.