Photo’s from Yoko’s sold-out show at Scullers

November 19th, 2014

Yoko played another sold-out show at Scullers on Nov. 13 — her sixth straight year selling out the club. Thanks to Caroline Alden for these wonderful pictures. And thanks to everyone who came, including Boston jazz radio luminary Eric Jackson!












Yoko returns to Scullers TOMORROW and tickets are almost gone!

November 12th, 2014

11-13 poster

Yoko has sold out Scullers for five straight years, and this year is about to sell out, too. So don’t delay, get your tickets today for tomorrow’s show!

We’re giving away a CD each day until the Scullers show!

November 5th, 2014

yokomiwatrio As we hope you know by now, Yoko is returning to Scullers Jazz Club on November 13 at 8 pm for what to expect will be another sold-out show. You can get your tickets here.

To celebrate this upcoming show, we’re giving away a copy of Yoko’s Live At Scullers Jazz Club CD every day between now and November 13. To enter, follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Each day we’ll post something in one place or the other for you to share or retweet. The first person to do so will win that day’s CD. Please note that we can only accept winners in the US, for shipping reasons.

Good luck!

Three views of a secret: Yoko plays the Beatles

October 29th, 2014

We thought it might be interesting to let you watch the band play the same tune over the years. Here’s Yoko’s version of “Golden Slumbers” from the Beatles’ Abbey Road.

First, from Kyoto, Japan in 2007:

Next, we jump forward to 2009 and a live performance at Sculler’s in Boston:

And finally, a version from 2013 with Rebecca Parris at the Shalin Liu Performance Center:

VIDEO: Yoko returns to Sculler’s on Nov. 13!

October 22nd, 2014

11-13 poster

Yoko has sold out Scullers for five straight years, and this year will likely sell out, too. So don’t delay, get your tickets today!

Have you explored Yoko’s website?

October 15th, 2014


Welcome to! If you haven’t yet explored the site, take a few minutes to look around.


We just completely updated the Video page with performances from the trio’s shows at the Blue Note earlier this year and at Sculler’s in 2012. You’ll also find videos from Japan, a testimonial from jazz singing giant Sheila Jordan, and a whole lot more.


Visit our Photos page for shots of the trio in action, Yoko as a solo pianist, and other photos taken by many talented photographers.

Electronic Press Kit

Want to get to know Yoko and the trio? The quickest way is through out electronic press kit, which you can view here:


Yoko is performing constantly as both a solo pianist and with the trio. Find out when she’ll be in your area by visiting the Shows page.


And that’s just the beginning. Click on the any of the links above or on the right side of the page to explore the site. Thanks for visiting!

Get your tickets NOW to see Yoko at Scullers on 11/13

October 8th, 2014

11-13 poster

Yoko has sold out Scullers for five straight years, and this year will likely sell out, too. So don’t delay, get your tickets today!

Yoko talks about learning to improvise

October 1st, 2014

“Mr. B.G.” (written by Yoko in tribute to Benny Green)

I’m sure when I first started playing piano at the age of four I must have been improvising because I had no idea how to read music. I didn’t know what a scale was. I didn’t even know middle C. I remember playing all day long because I just loved it. I wish I could remember what I was playing at that time, or even better, I wish I could hear it.

I have a lot of jazz harmony knowledge, and my perfect pitch allows me to hear everything, but there is something to be said about just knowing the music in a mechanical way. I’ve studied all the jazz theory. When one of my Berklee students asks me what I’m playing, I can demonstrate but I also have to be able to explain the concept and theory behind it. You have to know your scales, keys, chord scales, modes, tensions, substitute chords, reharmonization, etc. I agree it’s all useful and necessary knowledge to be able to improvise.

When it comes down to real improvisation, I always think the most important thing to do is transcribing solos. This is the one thing that I know that has helped me the most. I’m not talking about playing a solo already transcribed in a book, I mean actually transcribing it yourself. It’s a difficult process at first. There’s a learning curve though and you get better at it the more you do it, which I think is part of what helps you to improve at improvising.

Photo by Caroline Alden

Photo by Caroline Alden

I recommend for pianists to transcribe both right and left hands. I hear lots of pianists who have obviously taken note of the right-hand single lines the masters of this music have played, but the left hand is often wrong. It’s really important to have the left-hand chord voiced in a way that supports the tonality of the right hand improvisation, and the same goes for the rhythm and timing. If any of these aspects are off, it can clash. The right hand is the focus of most pianists when it comes to
improvising, but I really try to focus as much on the left hand in my teachings. I think it’s necessary to make the whole thing work.

You can’t just go out and play transcribed solos that you’ve memorized though. That’s not improvising either. When I first started I used to take a standard tune and transcribe a lot of different pianists playing the same song, like Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, Hank Jones, Tommy Flanagan, and even horn players like Charlie Parker. Then I would write out a solo with 2 measures of Oscar, 2 measures of Bill Evans, 2 measures of Charlie Parker, then 2 measures of myself. I actually wrote down my own improvisation. I would do this in a random order.

Eventually the transcribed solos were being taken over more and more by my own improvised phrases. For me, it was a great way to learn the necessary vocabulary. When I first started improvising, I had nothing to say myself because I had a limited vocabulary. Going through the process of transcribing — figuring it out myself and writing it down — filled my ears with phrases and a vocabulary that stuck with me. I think I became a better improviser because I had a lot more to say.

Navigating the cultural differences between Japan and the U.S.

September 24th, 2014


There were many cultural differences I noticed when I moved to the US from Japan. My initial impression was that Americans were less polite than the Japanese, but they were more friendly. I never saw strangers striking up a conversation with each other in Japan, and I was shocked to learn that students called their college professors by their first names! At least they did at Berklee.

In Japan, image is very important. People care what other people are thinking about them and how they are dressed. I felt in the US though, people dressed however they wanted and nobody cared. Even after all these years I still see people dressed so crazily and I think to myself, “Never in Japan!”

I was shocked to learn there was no time schedule for the city public transportation in the US. In Japan, the schedule of all the trains is displayed in every station and the trains show up exactly when they’re supposed to because in Japan, being one minute late is a big deal.

In Japan, a piano lesson usually consists mostly of pointing out the inadequacies in someone’s playing, then saying good job in the end. In the US, the focus is mostly on the good qualities of someone’s playing, then maybe adding one thing they need to work on. Japan is focused more on technique but the US is more focused on spirit. Most American musicians seem overly confident, while Japanese musicians are always telling themselves they have to work harder.

Most Japanese will tell you, though, the main difference is the food. If you’ve been to Japan then you know what I’m talking about, but if not I have to say I’m sorry, but food is better in Japan. There is of course great food in America but you have to look for it and it is usually expensive. Most restaurants here are more focused on profits than trying to make the best food they can.

vending machine

Everyone in Japan takes eating very seriously. It’s an experience and not just something you do for nourishment. So many places have food displays, it’s actually a big business in Japan where companies make artificial food for display that looks identical to the food being served.

Restaurants take so much pride, regardless of the price. It could be a noodle stand on the corner with room for only about 6 people, but you can bet it’s going to be good. It has to be or they would be shamed and certainly would never be able to stay in business. Mostly though I was shocked at the portion size in the US. When I moved here I couldn’t finish it, but now I can. Uh oh!

Lastly, I never saw a vending machine chained down in Japan, if you left your wallet somewhere in Japan it would probably still be there the next day. Oh yeah and there are a lot more bikes in Japan. A lot!


Yoko talks about playing in a piano trio

September 18th, 2014

Note: In the last edition of the blog, Yoko talked about playing solo piano. In this edition, she talks about playing with her trio.

YokoRegattabar-30 The first incarnation of my own group was actually a quintet; it was piano, bass, and drums with tenor sax and trumpet. I love to hear Oscar Peterson or Bill Evans play in any context, whether solo or in a larger group setting, but where I feel they truly shined was the trio setting. This isn’t why I chose to play as a trio though. My choice was more dictated by the financial opportunities (or lack thereof) that exist for performing musicians.

I recorded my first CD, “In the Mist of Time,” as a quartet with tenor saxophone. When I set out to book gigs for the quartet I quickly realized the amount of money that most of the clubs were offering was not enough for four people. Even on my first CD, I had a few trio tunes but I didn’t yet feel confident in playing an entire gig that way. I wasn’t going to let that stop me though, and before long I was comfortable being the main featured soloist the whole night. Also, to my surprise, people started to notice and compliment my playing much more than before. I actually had fans for the first time in my musical career!

in the studio I had always considered myself a supportive player who was good at playing in a group setting or backing up a singer, but being forced to go out and do gigs in a trio setting made me realize something about myself of which I wasn’t previously aware. I realized it may be possible that I actually sounded the best in this setting. I started to find it was also the truest expression of my playing — I didn’t have to conform or concede to the other musicians. In the trio setting, the musicians I played with were supporting me and conforming to the way I improvised.

This became a huge part of my musical identity and still is to this day. I find I don’t work well with musicians who are more concerned with making themselves sound good at the expense of the entire band. I like a team player. In my opinion, this approach is not helping jazz move forward. I see a lot of bands comprised of top musicians where individually everyone is so talented, but collectively the music often suffers because everyone is so concerned with putting their imprint on the music, rather than selflessly playing what the music calls for. It gets to a point where the music is secondary or irrelevant. It leaves me feeling kind of empty and it’s something I don’t want my audiences to ever feel.

Warning: include(lanks.php): failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /home/work/public_html/yokomiwa/wordpress/wp-content/themes/yoko/footer.php on line 32

Warning: include(lanks.php): failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /home/work/public_html/yokomiwa/wordpress/wp-content/themes/yoko/footer.php on line 32

Warning: include(): Failed opening 'lanks.php' for inclusion (include_path='.:/usr/lib/php:/usr/local/lib/php') in /home/work/public_html/yokomiwa/wordpress/wp-content/themes/yoko/footer.php on line 32