Walking through the Village, Saratoga’s historic downtown district, on a summer evening, you can expect to see couples and families strolling the street, heading to their favorite restaurant, wine bar, or club for a fine evening out. In the suite of options available in the Village, Café Pink House, one of Silicon Valley’s newest destinations for jazz, is not to be missed. Here you’ll find a full night of lively music, delicious food, and lots of fun.
The jazz club is co-owned by Matt Toshima and Yoshiko Oda, longtime Bay Area residents and close friends for the last 12 years. The two first crossed paths when Matt, a music lover and guitar player, was looking to assemble a band. “I met Matt at a party thrown by a mutual friend,” says Yoshiko. “At the time, he was gathering band members, and from childhood I’d really liked to sing, so I raised my hand when he asked.” Matt is a self-made businessman, but his passion is music. “I’m an engineer,” he says, “but for a certain period of my life, I was a musician. Even though I have my own company now, I still love jazz.” In 2001, Matt and Yoshiko started playing a seven-piece band, with Matt on the guitar and Yoshiko singing.
Over time, the other members of the group started to drift away. Finally, only Matt and Yoshiko remained. At about the same time, they decided to start a semiconductor company together. “In the beginning, we used Matt’s second house, which was painted pink, for our company. So we started to host jazz music there about once a month, putting together our own home concerts for friends and fellow musicians,” says Yoshiko. Eventually their business outgrew the pink house, so in 2007 they packed up and moved to a larger commercial space in Saratoga. They continued to host small concerts in their new space, enjoying the experience too much to give it up.
Over time, their semiconductor business outgrew its second home, and so they moved to new quarters in San Jose. Finding they wanted to continue throwing concerts, they decided to pursue these evenings of music as a profitable venture. So, they expanded out from their Saratoga location, and got serious about it.
On the stage sits a grand piano and state-of-the-art sound system designed to showcase large bands. And everywhere throughout the venue there are thoughtful touches, such as extra doors to block out the kitchen noise and a built-in button at each table so guests can request food or drinks without disrupting the ambiance. “Our goal is not to disturb the guests while the music is playing, but we did want to give them a way to reach us for service,” explains Atsuko Yamura, general manager at the cafe. “The venue takes the musician’s perspective,” she continues. “This space was made for musicians.” If that particular detail makes the cafe ideal for musicians, it enhances the experience for guests as well—as does another aspect of the show design here. With an hour of open time before the music begins, a one-hour intermission between sets, and an hour to socialize afterwards, this jazz club provides for a unique relationship between guests and players. Musicians can talk with the crowd both before and after a set, something that’s often not possible at other venues. “This is a meeting place for the musician and the audience,” says Matt.
Jazz is not the only music you can hear at Café Pink House. The stage has seen samba, a variety of contemporary vocalists, and even flamenco music, complete with traditional dancers. Matt and Yoshiko are also starting to expand into renting the club out for private concerts, parties, and other events, hoping to attract an even more diverse clientele. “Saratoga can be a little quiet. We have our regulars who love music and know to come here, but not enough people stop in off the street. We want everyone to know we’re here,” says Matt. As part of their expansion, too, Café Pink House recently started hosting Coffee Time on Saturday afternoons, a chance for guests of all ages to enjoy live music with no cover charge. So, whether weekend evening or Saturday afternoon, if you’ve an ear for music and a taste for good food, Café Pink House is the place for you.
Written by Michelle Runde
Photography by Walter Wagner
This article originally appeared in Issue 8.3 Show