Tag Archives: Marian McPartland

APAP Recap

The trio had a great time this past weekend at the Association of Performing Arts Presenters Conference in NYC! It was a gathering of great jazz musicians of every generation and the record labels, artist managers, booking agencies, and festival promoters who run this business. Yoko played solo piano at the opening party and with the Trio at three showcases. Everyone was so welcoming and genuinely kind.

Yoko at APAP 2014, Cathy Katona, CKatona Photography
Yoko at APAP 2014, Cathy Katona, CKatona Photography

Allan Harris, great jazz singer and his wife/manager Pat Harris hosted the APAP opening party at their Harlem brownstone. Yoko was one of the musicians invited to play, and she was in great company.  Cyrus Chestnut played solo piano at the party, and with his trio at the showcases. Cynthia Scott, a great singer who is a former Raelette (backup singer for Ray Charles) sang at the party. Pianist Marc Cary, who was also the late Abbey Lincoln’s musical director, played a great version of one of Abbey’s iconic songs, “Throw it Away.” Bassist Charnett Moffett played, and then we got to hang out with him while he told stories about playing with Mulgrew Miller in his band, Tony Williams in his band, and McCoy Tyner and his band. We talked about how Mulgrew and Tony left us so early, but he stressed how it was the quality of time they spent on this earth that matters, not the length.
The party alone would have been worth the trip to New York, but then there was the rest of the conference! We saw Francisco Mela, an old friend from Berklee and current drummer for Joe Lovano, and enjoyed just hanging out at the showcases. Don Braden, the tenor sax great, played in a showcase right after ours. Jon Weber, pianist played in several showcases, and he remembered Yoko from sharing the stage in Lincoln Center. Jon recently took over as the new host of “Piano Jazz” on NPR, following in the footsteps of the late, great Marian McPartland. Many artists were there from the Motema label, which is becoming one of the more influential labels in jazz. Motema hosted a jam session after the final showcase on Sunday night. The jam went until 2AM, with too many world class musicians sitting in to mention…Motema provided free mojitos!

We shared the stage and hung out with too many music legends to mention in one post; a few not mentioned above were like Monty Alexander, Bucky Pizzarelli, and Don Braden. Hope to see and work with you all again soon! Yoko reflects, “I am so grateful to Fred Taylor for introducing my trio in the showcases, not to mention connecting me with important industry people. Most of all, thanks to Scott and Will. We should be coming back soon to NYC so stay tuned….”

In Memoriam: Mulgrew Miller

Last Wednesday, May 29, the music world lost someone very special. Mulgrew Miller, a warm-hearted jazz pianist with a sweet and bouncy touch on the keys, died at age 57 after suffering a stroke the previous week.

As a bandleader, Miller was most well-known for his group Wingspan, made up of piano, vibraphone, saxophone, and sometimes flute. As a sideman, Miller was equally impressive, playing on over 400 recordings. While his style was rooted in jazz greats that came before him, particularly in be-bop, he was always an innovator. For example, in the 90’s, he played with The Contemporary Piano Ensemble, a group of four to five pianists and a rhythm section.

Yoko remembers, “I first heard him on his album titled “Work” with local drumming legend Terri Lyne Carrington. He’s a pianist that everyone of my generation respected and admired. He was a great educator sharing his knowledge graciously. You could tell he checked out every jazz pianist in the history of this music. I mean not only checked them out but he could play like them down to the articulation, phrasing, rhythmic approach and touch. He brought such a wide stylistic palette to his playing which is something I also try to draw influence from.”

In addition to his talents as a musician, Miller was a passionate music educator and mentor. In jazz style he was most influential in the 80’s and 90’s, but in teaching, he was influential throughout his career. He served as the Director of Jazz Studies at William Patterson University. He worked with a wide variety of acts including many that included musicians just starting their careers, and inspired a following among professional musicians that’s as passionate as his following among audiences.

In 2011, the Yoko Miwa Trio got to share a stage with Miller and hang out backstage with him at the Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola at Jazz at Lincoln Center in NYC, which was also NPR’s Piano Jazz host and renowned pianist Marian McPartland’s 93rd birthday celebration.

Three pianists -- Larry Willis, Yoko Miwa, and Mulgrew Miller

Reflecting on that night, Yoko says, “I could tell he was he was a very gentle and sensitive guy. One of the pianists who was playing that night at Dizzy’s (a popular up and coming pianist) played a song that not only Mulgrew played on one of his well known records but also played it very much the way Mulgrew played it, arrangement and solo. I was intrigued by this since the pianist knew everyone was sitting in the green room listening, including Mulgrew. I watched Mulgrew checking out the pianist and wondered what was going through his mind. When the pianist came off stage Mulgrew said, ‘man you’re making me nervous.’”

You will be missed, ‘Grew.


Historic Piano Night at Dizzy’s at Lincoln Center

September 19, 2011 (click on a photo to enlarge)

Meeting and listening to the improvisations of the legendary Marian McPartland (93 years old). Seeing her sit across from her portrait in the famous Harlem 1958 photo by Art Kane (she was one of the very few women in the picture). This was a precious, extraordinary experience.

Then to share sets with Ms. McPartland and other luminaries and rising stars. Kenny Barron, Mulgrew Miller, Bill Charlap, Larry Willis, Dado Moroni, Jon Weber, Ted Rosenthal, Helen Sung, Aaron Diehl, Adam Birnbaum, Christian Sands, Grace Kelly, and more. It was three lifetimes worth of knowledge and experience and energy crammed into one evening. A Monday evening at that.

All thanks to Todd Barkan, Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, and Jazz at Lincoln Center.


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