Sone is the oldest Jazz club/restaurant in Kobe. It’s a family business. It’s also one of the largest clubs in Kobe. It’s in every guidebook that mentions Kobe’s Jazz scene, English or Japanese, and is at the top of the list, or near the top, every single time. Their food is, while expensive, very good, and their bartenders make a wide selection of proper cocktails, which are rated in the menu by alcohol content. If I were just judging the food and drink, I’d put it in the guidebooks myself.
Hearing that, you might assume it has quality Jazz, and from a certain standpoint, it does. If you’re a Japanese businessman who knows nothing about Jazz, walking into a dimly lit bar with dark wood paneling and 50’s movie posters and pinups on the wall might make you think you’re in a place where real Jazz lives. Truthfully, a type of Jazz lives here. I call it “Salaryman Jazz.”
What do I mean by “Salaryman Jazz?” I mean Jazz that is about as full of fire and spirit as a salaryman sitting at his desk, doing exactly as he’s told to do, day in and day out. I have not managed, all month, to stay through an entire evening at Sone. I can make it for one set, and after that, I’m gone.
The first cue that something was wrong was when I heard the piano trio the first night I went there playing exactly in sync. If you listen to a lot of live Jazz, you know that that hardly ever happens, because it requires a lot of rehearsal. I cannot describe Sone’s musicians as untalented or unprofessional, just as – well, let’s say uninspired.
I hear that Sone wasn’t always like this. People say that the place got ruined when it got so large, because they expanded the venue, and the performers can’t keep up the energy levels to keep people’s focus in a larger club. They say that Sone got so big, it started having to pander to a wider audience, book musicians who all had similar styles, and essentially dumb-down the music.
I guess the bottom line is, Sone has become a place that people go to convince other people that they like Jazz, rather than to actually appreciate Jazz. My verdict of Sone is thus that of a Jazz snob; thumbs down. Their cover charges are less than other places, but for the number of people talking during the performances, you can tell that something just isn’t right.
Food: 4 1/2 / 5
SONE has Jazz every night starting at 6:30, with a music charge of 1200 yen, and a special afternoon session for 1000 yen, with one drink included, from 2-4 on Sunday afternoons.
Travis Love is the Hyogo Times Food / Jazz contributor. He lives in Aioi, and would love to hear from you in the comments below or via Facebook. He has never released a country music record.