The word “captivating” does not begin to describe the atmosphere at Blue Whale in Little To-kyo. Away from the hustle and bustle of Main Street or the Arts District, Little Tokyo tends to wind down a bit earlier than other parts of Downtown. When the Weller Court Shopping Center begins to turn in, Blue Whale wakes up and welcomes the city’s stragglers to round off, or rev up, their evening with tunes that tantalize.
Crowds here “range from twenty-four to forty-four,” says manager Rob Gaudet as he tries to speak over the sounds of dancers tapping to Bossa Zuzu’s Brazilian jazz in the background. That’s right, tap dancers and international artists. Anything goes and all are welcome in a space that labels themselves “Live Jazz + Art Space.”
The gravity of Blue Whale draws in the downtowner and refuses to let go. Tucked in the corner on the third floor of the square shopping center, Blue Whale has been calling all lovers of music for the last five years—a lifetime in jazz bar years, Gaudet informs.
Bossa Zuzu continues on and the room quickly grows warm as the music fills the packed space. No one minds rubbing elbows and everyone seems to bond with each other over the talent in front of them.
Haifez’s words from “A Great Need” dress Blue Whale’s asymmetrical ceiling. To Haifez, the “great need” is love; for patrons at Blue Whale, it’s music. In most bars around Downtown, live jazz bands come to fill a void rather than pull a crowd. The opposite is true at Blue Whale, where downtowners prefer to get drunk on sound instead of the happy hour special.
Blue Whale makes a cozy location even cozier with the scores of bands they have playing throughout any given week. Local big-bands like Ethio Cali and Canadian musicians like Joanna Borromeo perform in the center of the room, surrounded by patrons swaying in their seats in the dark.
There is something ethereal about this place. The backlighting transitions from blue to pink to yellow to green behind the musicians set up on the white stage while they play music that seems to set the world at ease.