Jazz With Friends

October 24th, 2013
In the past two weeks, this blog has covered introducing your young kids and your teens to jazz. What if the people you want to enjoy jazz with — who don’t yet know that they love jazz — are your adult children, your partner, or your friends?
Yoko Miwa signing CDs
  • Take a short class or workshop together. If your friend enjoys expanding their horizons and learning new things, but has been hesitant to go to a concert with you, it may be because they think they won’t understand jazz. A short class at a local community education center will introduce them to some music principles while showing them that there’s no need to be intimidated by jazz!
  • Just like with teens, enjoying a movie with jazz in it can be a great way to increase a friend’s exposure to jazz. Stay tuned for more news on the independent film Midlife, which Yoko Miwa herself composed the score for!
  • Think about their tastes and choose a venue where your friend will be sure to have a good time. Think about their tastes. You can see the Yoko Miwa Trio at the upscale Les Zygomates and relax with fine French cuisine and wine, or at a laidback American-style brunch at Ryles Jazz Club, or in a funky Asian fusion environment for some sushi or tempura at Thelonious Monkfish.

Introducing a friend to jazz isn’t about evangelism, it’s just about sharing joy, so you don’t want anyone to feel pushed. For more thoughts on sharing joy through music, see our earlier blog post “When “Listen to This!” is a Gift.”

Jazz with Teens

October 17th, 2013

Since last week’s blog was about listening to jazz with your young kids, this week is about older kids and teens. By middle and high school, kids have their own taste in music – and typically, there’s some overlap in taste with their parents, and some musical interests that do not overlap at all! If you want to share your love of jazz with your teens, here are some ideas for getting started.

  • Listen to what they have to say about music. Propose a trade, and go to a concert they are interested in together, then take them to a concert of music you like.
  • Make sure they don’t feel left out at the venue you go to. Choose a venue in which not everyone will be drinking, or one in which the bartender will make the teens an elegant virgin cocktail.
  • Watch movies with jazz in them together, such as Chicago, All Night Long, Sweet and Low, and the many great movies out there profiling individual musicians, like Bird (Charlie Parker) or Lady Sings the Blues (Billie Holiday).
  • Invite your kid to bring a friend when going with you to jazz shows. They’ll have more fun, and who knows, maybe you’ll inspire more than one teen to get interested in jazz.
Yoko Miwa and a Berklee student

Yoko Miwa and a Berklee student

Jazz with Kids

October 10th, 2013

The Yoko Miwa Trio has fans of all ages, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. If you have kids, or if you spend a lot of time with friends’ kids, you may have thought about how to get kids into jazz. There’s no way to guarantee they will share your tastes in music, but there are lots of ways to explore and enjoy music with young children.

  • Head to your local library and pick up some kids’ books with jazz themes. A lot of the kids books on jazz that are out there focus only on the jazz scene from the 20s to the 50s, but still, they’ll be introduced to some legends. Picture books like “Charlie Parker Played Bebop” by Christopher Raschka and “The Jazz Fly” by Matthew Golub are great for reading aloud, as they are heavy on rhythm and onomatopoeia.
  • Try out some musical instruments. The appropriate age to start kids on music lessons varies based on what you and your child hope your child will get out of the lessons, but any age is a good time to play “chopsticks” or bang on a toy drum.
  • Dance around the living room together with your favorite jazz music playing. You don’t have to know any jazz dance – in fact, a lot of “jazz dance” is pretty grown-up oriented because of the sensual moves. Just be silly and uninhibited, acting out what the music makes you feel. Kids are great at this, so you may learn as much as they do.
  • Go to a show with your kids. Choose a venue that’s kid-friendly and enjoy some music out. The kids may not be as focused on the music as you are, but they’ll pick up on the fact that going to see live music is fun. For example, Ryles has some good food for little ones on their Jazz Brunch menu, like French toast, blueberry pancakes, eggs any style, and freshly squeezed orange juice.

Thank you for making the JazzFest Falmouth concert wonderful!

October 3rd, 2013

Thank you to everyone who came out to see the Trio on Sunday! It was a beautiful day on the Cape and our first time performing at Jazzfest Falmouth. Here are some reflections on the performance from Yoko.

“First, let me speak of the exquisite piano at Highfield Hall. It was a concert grand Mason & Hamlin, which is even bigger than a concert grand Steinway. When I first saw it I thought it may be hard to play.  Pianists have to play the instrument provided, and over the years I’ve learned how to deal with any type of piano. Sometimes the sound of a particular piano can be so intoxicating that it has a strong effect on how I play. It could be a harsh tone that doesn’t really agree with me but this piano lead me to the right place… this piano was like an old friend who was so happy to see me and I was equally happy.

Yoko Miwa at JazzFest Falmouth, Highfield Hall

“The concert had sold out in record time, so we knew we were going to have an audience, but you never know what your audience will be like until you’re in the midst of performance. This was not only an enthusiastic and appreciative audience,  the room was at capacity and the concert ended in immediate standing ovation. That would’ve been enough but this audience was special.

Yoko Miwa Trio and audience at JazzFest Falmouth, Highfield Hall

“It was one of those wonderful moments where we as performers could feed off the energy the audience was giving to us, helping to guide the direction of our improvisation. We played the beautiful ballad by Jerome Kern titled Don’t Ever Leave Me.” That’s they way we felt toward this audience and I think the feeling was mutual.”

Plan Your Visit to Falmouth to see the Yoko Miwa Trio

September 26th, 2013
If you have your tickets for Yoko Miwa Trio’s sold-out kickoff of the Falmouth JazzFest this Sunday, you will want to take some time to explore the area. If you’re coming from Falmouth or neighboring towns, you may well know the information below — please take a moment to tell us more about the highlights of the area in the comments! If you are coming from elsewhere on the Cape or further away, read on and plan your day.
If you enjoy nature, bundle up and take a walk at Ashumet Holly and Wildlife Sanctuary (286 Ashumet Road), or bike or walk along the Shining Sea Bikeway, which connects Falmouth and Woods Hole.  Or for a warmer walk, enjoy the shops on Main Street.
For fine dining, try The Glass Onion, a beloved American/fusion restaurant (37 N. Main Street) or Osteria La Civetta, an Italian restaurant with gluten-free as well as traditional homemade pasta (133 Main Street). If you prefer to eat somewhere with a more down-to-earth local flavor, Quahog Republic (97 Springs Bars Road) is your place for fish and chips or lobster rolls.

Head over to Highfield Hall early to experience the way autumn graces the building’s grounds. If you stop by earlier in the day when the building is open for visitation (10 am to 2 pm), you can see the three art exhibitions on display through the end of October. “Pocketful of Posies” displays Salley Mavor’s award-winning fabric relief illustrations of nursery rhymes. “America the Beautiful: The Words of Katharine Lee Bates interpreted in Fiber and Paint” is a collection of local artists’ work inspired by the song “America the Beautiful.” Complementing the art is a history exhibition, “Voice of the Tide,” on the life of Falmouth-born Katharine Lee Bates, who wrote “America the Beautiful.”

Most of all, enjoy the show!

Soulful Sips

September 19th, 2013

Thelonious Monkfish in Central Square, Cambridge, a jazz-themed asian fusion bar, recently created the Yoko Miwa’s Blue Tear, soon after Yoko started playing there regularly. It consists of sake, blue curacao, coconut milk and pineapple juice. You may have heard of a “Blue Tear Jerker,” which contains blue curacao and schnapps, but it’s not nearly as pretty as the white and blue layers of the Cambridge creation.

Yoko Miwa enjoys a Yoko Miwa's Blue Tear Thelonious Monkfish

Most alcoholic drinks associated with jazz are not so much linked to the music as they are to the Jazz Age, which was largely during Prohibition. Classic cocktails such as manhattans, gin rickeys, and martinis were standards at the time, fashionable out in the open in Europe and possibly even more popular behind closed doors in the States.

In Boris Vian’s surreal French novel “L’Ecume des Jours,” (Froth on the Daydream), the wealthy protagonist Colin loves to play the pianocktail, a piano-like instrument that creates a cocktail based on the music being played. He demonstrates that one can create harmonies that taste delicious, but also some beautiful, haunting, dissonant compositions that are horrific to drink! Since the novel came out in 1947, others have riffed on the concept, and artist-inventors have even attempted to create the instrument – but no reports have come back on whether the drinks or the music is good.

Drink responsibly, but enjoy music with abandon!

The Scoop on Scullers

September 12th, 2013

Don’t let the exterior fool you – while Scullers is housed in a Doubletree Hotel and tucked away from the neighborhoods known for their nightlife, this venue knows how to provide a timeless jazz club feel. The acoustics are good, and they turn the lights down low and cluster the chairs for an intimate environment; when the music starts playing, you could be in any decade and any city that has a roaring jazz scene.

The Yoko Miwa Trio plays an annual fall show at Scullers, and this year’s will be on November 20 at 8 pm. Tickets are available online, or you can call the box office at 617-562-4111. Get them soon, because this show has sold out in the past.


If you are looking for a really relaxing evening, go for the dinner and show package, so you can enjoy a three-course prix fixe meal and just saunter over to the club to listen to the Yoko Miwa Trio. In addition to the dinner at The Green Room, audience members with the package ticket get priority seating for the show.

Parking in the hotel garage is $10. While many Yelp reviewers recommend taking a cab (it’s easy from Central Square) for comfort on a breezy fall night, there are also a number of buses that take you along Cambridge Street right by Scullers. The venue is wheelchair-accessible. Dressy attire is expected, so get ready for a stylish night out!

The Yoko Miwa Trio’s Annual Fall Show at Scullers!

September 5th, 2013

The Yoko Miwa Trio has had the pleasure of performing a special show at Scullers Jazz Club each autumn for several years. The album Live at Scullers Jazz Club was, true to its name, recorded at one of these shows, but each year’s performance is something new.

A majority of the videos on the trio’s Youtube channel were taped at Scullers performances. A fan showed this 2010 video of Yoko’s cover of Aerosmith’s Seasons of Wither to Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler, and he really liked it. Of course, the Scullers also includes some of Yoko’s original compositions, and there may even be a rare special guest appearance with the trio, so stay tuned!

This year’s Scullers show will be on November 20 at 8 pm. Tickets are available now! You can also buy the dining package for a 6 pm dinner at the club’s Green Room Restaurant before the show. You can also call the box office at 617-562-4111. Get them soon, because this show has been known to sell out!

Tickets for Show at Scullers November 20 8pm available now

September 3rd, 2013

Tickets for the Yoko Miwa Trio’s November 20 show at Scullers Jazz Club are on sale now — click here!

Scullers Jazz Club

Reviewing the documentary “Note by Note”

August 29th, 2013

Yoko Miwa Trio fans who liked the posts From Key to Ear and Note by Note, or who watched the short Youtube video tour of the Steinway factory we shared on our Facebook page some months back, would appreciate the 2007 Ben Niles documentary Note by Note: The Making of Steinway L1037.

“L1037″ in the title is the serial number of a specific piano, one of Steinway’s concert grands, and the film follows the year-long process of crafting the instrument. From planing the first boards and crafting the sounding board to stretching the strings and several iterations of tuning, the film interviews craftsmen and women from throughout the process. While mass-produced pianos exist, the Steinway concert grands are as far from mass-produced as you can get, and you can see many parts of the instrument stamped with the serial number as they move along the production process, because each piano has its own character, and all the parts must fit together perfectly.

The film shows the seasons change as L1037 is slowly crafted, but it intersperses scenes following this particular instrument with scenes from the rest of the Steinway factory and scenes of musicians testing and selecting instruments. Located in the Bronx, the factory is both a hometown anchor and an international meeting place. Many of Yoko’s experiences, in Japan and the U.S., at Berklee, and at numerous music festivals, have demonstrated the same thing the film shows – that love of music is a global feeling that can bring people together.

One worker described having sneaked in to play between stacks of lumber in the factory yard as a kid, while many of his coworkers took the job shortly after immigrating. From the way these workers talk about what they do — and, in many cases, have done for decades — it’s clear that a lot of love goes into those pianos. To be sure, the film doubles as a promotion for the company, and it’s not designed to be the kind of documentary that exposes anything that may be wrong, but there’s a ring of truth in the way these workers describe their craft.

Other than the lovely background music (mostly classical, but some jazz), one of the best parts of “Note by Note” is the intimate details of life at the factory: footage of a man blowing sawdust out of his hair with some sort of air hose, the personal items tacked up on the walls of a tuner’s workshop. The film is slow-moving at parts, but never dry, and one that all piano enthusiasts should check out.

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