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Novelist Haruki Murakami Cites Long-Lost Tokyo Jazz Club Peter Cat as Major Influence, Harper's Aaron Gilbreath Journeys to Find the Dwelling

By Ian Holubiak i.holubiak@classicalite.com on Feb 17, 2014 01:00 PM EST

When acclaimed Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami first heard jazz as a teen, he was instantly hooked.

The writer saw Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers perform in Kobe in January 1964 with their most celebrated lineup: Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Curtis Fuller on trombone, Wayne Shorter on sax and pianist Cedar Walton.

Murakami even postponed his college studies to open a jazz club under the name Peter Cat in Tokyo.

In 1977, he and his wife Yoko moved the jazz club to Tokyo's central Sendagaya neighborhood, which would play home to the author's first two novels.

This ultimately led to later publications referencing doo-wop titles like The Dells' "Dance Dance Dance" and Curtis Fuller's "Five Spot After Dark."

Murakami even cites that a lot of his writing style is influenced by the idiom's rhythm and improvisation--a common analogy for writers like Jack Kerouac who bled jazz into their style.

Alas, the Peter Cat club closed in 1981. But the shuttering didn't taint Murakami's writing. In fact, jazz continued to be a fount of inspiration.

To wit, Aaron Gilbreath at Harper's Magazine led a solo expedition to locate these inspirational dwellings--long after they closed down.

"Before I left, I read After Dark. The novel takes place in the capital over the course of a single night," writes Gilbreath.

"It seemed like a great entree to the Tokyo beyond the shrines and shopping districts--to its fringes, where you might encounter unconventional people, including those who commit Japan's relatively small number of crimes. After Dark was also a book filled with jazz: A trombone-playing protagonist. A bar spinning Duke Ellington records. Frequent allusions to songs. A title borrowed from one of my favorite hard bop tunes. The novel got me thinking about the source of Murakami's musical passions, and when I followed the trail from After Dark, it led back to his college years, and to Peter Cat," he continued.

If you're interested in following Gilbreath's most righteous endeavor, do make your way to the full Harper's article here

And speaking of, check out Curtis Fuller's "Five Spot After Dark" when you're done.

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TagsHaruki Murakami, Yoko Murakami, Aaron Gilbreath, Harper's Magazine, Duke Ellington, Peter Cat, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Freddie Hubbard, Curtis Fuller, Wayne Shorter, Cedar Walton, The Dells, Dance Dance Dance, Five Spot After Dark