For Interviews with Yoko Miwa, click here.
We were featured in both the January and Spring 2012 digital editions of Jazziz. Click on the images below to read the full articles.
Yoko Miwa Makes an Eclectically Lyrical Blue Note Debut
In her Blue Note debut yesterday, Yoko Miwa showed off a comfortable but hard-charging command of several jazz vernaculars. She made elegant ragtime out of Monk, worked a playful carnaval pulse back and forth on one number, and managed to make a jauntily entertaining trip to New Orleans out of what was essentially a one-chord vamp. But the vernacular that she excelled the most with was her own. That style favors lots of big block chords stretched mostly across the piano’s midrange, which she builds expansively but purposefully to big, glittering, anthemic crescendos. Think of a more carefree Brad Mehldau (that shouldn’t be hard!) and you’re on the right track. Read more.
Review: Yoko Miwa at the Blue Note
Yoko Miwa, Berklee professor and jazz pianist, took the stage on Sunday at the Blue Note as part of the venue’s East Meets West Brunch series and blew through some bluesy oldies as well as impressive original compositions. Her bandmates — Will Slater on bass and Scott Goulding on drums — provided assistance and contributed in surprisingly egoless ways to Miwa’s originals. Read more.
Miwa’s original composition “Wheel Of Life” begins with a beautifully understated piano line before soon turning into a larger sound of cascading notes with her rhythm section joining in with their own lovely touches. Miwa has a way of keeping art, beauty, and emotion all perfectly contained in a peaceful expression of colors and tone. It is during these moments of understatement that the listener can truly feel what she was likely feeling when she was composing. Read more.
Miwa displays an impressive stylistic range. Opening with a rousing take of Steve Allen’s “This Could Be the Start of Something,” the pianist and her trio mix a bouncy elegance with a full-bore forward momentum. Miwa treats the melody with reverence, riding a inexorable rhythmic wave supplied by bassist Greg Loughman and drummer Scott Goulding. Virtuosic but unrelentingly accessible, the pianist stretches out, taking eleven minutes to explore this Great American Songbook gem with glorious grace. Read more.
Miwa possesses a fully-formed style and shuns flamboyance for substance, making every note count, despite a formidable technique that might tempt her to overplay. Read more.
Yoko Miwa swings from both sides of the piano, and is blessed with a left hand that lends itself to a fully developed playing style that is reminiscent of early stride masters; a dominant strength, no doubt acquired through McCoy Tyner’s influence on Miwa, and also may be traced to be-bop genius, Thelonious Monk, who heavily influenced Tyner. Read more.
The trio swings hard on the Steve Allen composition, “This could be the start of something”, closing with a energetic piano/drums call and response. The beautiful ballad “Wheel of Life” is one of Miwa two originals. The chord progression gives the listener a sense of circular motion. The other original, “Silent Promise” also a ballad, is one of the most intimate and sublime moments of the album and reminiscent of movie themes like Cinema Paradiso. Read more.
It’s not just her flawless punctuality, it’s the fact that you can “feel” what she’s playing, whether it be an old standard like the opener, Steve Allen’s “This Could Be The Start of Something Big“, or her superb original composition (my favorite on the CD, by the way), “Wheel of Life“… read more.
Miwa’s excellent, light – hearted piano sets a great tone straight from the beginning with “This Could be the Start of Something”, and the fun never stops throughout the CD. The crowd can be heard enjoying themselves, especially with up-tempo numbers like the album opener. Read more.
If you’re looking for something different to add to your jazz library, or you’re a music fan who is thinking about trying out jazz, then you want this recording. There is meat for the aficionado, but there is also a lot of fun for the regular listener. You’ll hear some tunes you might know (Lou Reed and Aerosmith, for instance!) but like you’ve never heard them before. Read more.
On this one the live ambiance clearly gets them cooking. They rip through a nice set of standards and less-standards, along with a couple of Yoko originals, and they do an excellent job throughout. Read more.
She a has a mean left hand and a restless right one… Read more.
Maybe we’ll add that Boston should quit hogging her and let the rest of us see her live once in a while. Simply a first class, straight up, straight ahead player whose sole mission is to step up and deliver the goods, this is solid playing that’s as good as it gets. Read more.
When it comes to live albums by jazz performers, those recorded within the cosy confines of a smokey jazz club tend to sound the best. The acoustics at the Scullers Jazz Club sound pretty damn fine, and the interplay and musicality of the Yoko Miwa Trio shine through extremely well. The mix of music is surprisingly varied – along with several original tracks by pianist Yoko Miwa, there are selections from Art Farmer, Milton Nascimento and Steve Allen, sitting alongside songs by rock icons Steven Tyler of Aerosmith and Lou Reed, which you probably wouldn’t expect to find on a jazz album. Read more.
“Pianist Yoko Miwa displays unpretentious melodies, elegant phrasing, and the lyrical
sensibility of a jazz poet… she’s a remarkably fluent mainstream player with a graceful
touch and a self-assured notion of where each tune is headed.”
“Listening to Yoko Miwa play the piano is like listening to the stars that shine at night
twinkle at various decibels as they frame the celestial bodies in the evening sky with
sound waves of elation and startling beauty.”
“Yoko Miwa demonstrates a full command of the inner-directed, post-Bill Evans piano
idiom, which also takes in the work of Keith ]arrett and, to lesser extents, Chick Corea
and Steve Kuhn… displays her burgeoning talent as a writer of melodically inviting,
impressionistic material, as well as introducing a technically assured soloist with a clean,
singing sound and an occasional penchant for the blues in pastels.”
The Yoko Miwa Trio – Fadeless Flower (Miwa, piano; Greg Loughman, bass;
Scott Goulding, drums) – Polystar P.J.L. MTCJ-3009: (Release date: June 15)
by John Henry
Another outstanding Japanese female jazz piano star is with us, hard on the heels of the
phenomenal Hiromi (reviewed twice here last month). This is already the second album
as leader for Ms. Miwa, who began her studies with the father of famed jazz pianist
Makoto Ozone, and has served as accompanist to vocalist Kevin Mahogany. In 2001 she
was a featured performer at the Kennedy Center’s “Mary Lou William’s Women in Jazz
Festival.” All nine tracks here are her originals and each has a song-like sense about them
that seem to perfectly fit the album’s titled Fadeless Flower – which is also a waltz-tempo
tune on the album. She observes, “I’m always trying to sing when I play a solo, I mean
sing through my piano phrasing.” Her trio members support her effectively by avoiding
overstating their parts – especially the tasteful drummer. Not all the tunes are so lyrical
however; some are straight-ahead swingers with some active bluesy left-hand chording.
Her clean and singing sound is beautifully transmitted by the high quality recording on
this new-to-me Japanese label.
All About Jazz
“The pianist has an engaging way of repeating a phrase, drawing the listener in before she
lets the melodic flow go free again, telling stories full of concise and beautifully-rendered
ideas…. The variety of styles Miwa commands, while maintaining a start-to-finish
cohesion of sound on Fadeless Flower, is impressive. A gorgeous and unpretentious set
of straight-ahead jazz.”
The Village Voice
“Young mainstream piano trio aim for clean sound, delicate balance, inconspicuous
All Music Guide
“Her second album as a leader is one of the warmest, most unapologetically lyrical
jazz albums of the year… Miwa displays her facility with a variety of styles on this all-
original program….what’s consistently impressive is her ability to deliver complex and
challenging musical ideas in a compelling and yet frequently gentle and inviting way.”
This is trio jazz worth listening to. There is fiber in its congeniality. Like those talks with
Carl Sagan, or more aptly, Leonard Bernstein. True intelligence is never boring.