Gig Reviews

Tokyo jam night with Toshi Yanagi

Jimmy Kimmel Live guitarist Toshi Yanagi played with his friends at a relaxed jam session in Tokyo.

Toshi Yanagi at Noah Studio Gakugeidai, Tokyo, Japan on 29th December 2023

The concept was as simple as it was effective. Los Angeles-based Toshi Yanagi, one of the best guitarists Japan has ever produced, was visiting Japan and wanted to put together a laidback jam session for friends and fans. Toshi, perhaps best known for playing in the house band on the American TV show Jimmy Kimmel Live and touring with Eikichi Yazawa, brought together an eclectic mix of professional and amateur musicians to perform both covers and some of his original material.

Bassist Juna Serita, keyboardist Aria Saito and drummer Mike Marrington (Sekai no Owari) provided a solid foundation for Toshi’s performance for most of the evening. Among the many musicians to take their turns next to Toshi during the jam were guitarist Midori Tatematsu (Lovebites) and bassist Tomoko Sukenobu (Atomic Swing).

Following a few initial instrumental pieces, vocalist Annette Yamanaka (from Eikichi Yazawa’s touring band) stepped up and belted out classic after classic. When it was time for Toto’s “Rosanna”, Annette got to shine with Mike Marrington who stepped out from behind his drum kit to show us that he is also a good singer. Musically, a fair chunk of the two-and-a-half-hour session was exquisite bluesy rock. Us metalheads got some presents in the form of Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher” and “Mean Street”, Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” and AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell”. There were also songs by Jeff Beck (“Led Boots”), The Brand New Heavies (“Dream Come True”), Stevie Wonder (“Do I Do”) and plenty of more musical candy. This was a fun jam session with skilled musicians who enjoyed themselves. It was a relaxed evening focused on having a good time. It was Toshi Yanagi’s name on the door and the posters, but he let his fellow musicians get their fair share of the spotlight. He is an insanely great guitar player but he is also a humble artist who knows how to pick musicians that complement his playing.

What a setlist! What a great bunch of musicians! What an enjoyable and jam-tastic evening of proper music!