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Junko Onishi Trio
April 06, 2011
Junko Onishi (Piano)
Dwayne Burno (Bass)
Gregory Hutchinson (Drums)
Wednesday 8pm $16
Born in the ancient city Kyoto, Junko started to play piano at four. She later moved to Tokyo and became enthusiastic about jazz when she was introduced to the records of Thelonious Monk as high school student. After graduating high school, she went to the States to enter Berklee College of Music in Boston, and in 1989, she started to be active in New York City and honed her skills by attending jam sessions held in various clubs like Augies (now called Smoke) while working in the groups of such luminaries like Betty Carter, Joe Henderson and Jackie McLean.
Shortly after she came back to Japan, Junko signed a contract with EMI Japan and released her first album called “WOW”. The album was selected by numerous musical magazines as the best jazz album of the year by the Japanese artists, which made a young female pianist who had only been known to the connoisseurs into a focal figure. She continued to release one or two albums per year — all of them were very highly acclaimed and some of them were released worldwide through the Blue Note label, which was unprecedented by any Japanese jazz musician.
Junko also recorded with artists like Billy Higgins, Jackie McLean, Joe Lovano and Phil Woods (besides, she accompanied such legends as Freddie Hubbard, Johnny Griffin and George Coleman at the Mt. Fuji Jazz Festivals, the premier jazz event held annually in Japan during the 90s).
In May 1994, Junko came on stage at the Village Vanguard, the prestigious jazz club in Greenwich Village NYC, which was the first time that a Japanese-led band performed there for an entire week. She also performed with her own group at many of the renowned jazz festivals in Europe such as the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland.
However, in 2000, Junko stopped performing in public and chose to start a new journey of her own quest. It was not until 2007 that she enjoyed her “harvest”. All of her fans waiting for her comeback naturally showed great expectations about her new release, but she still waited to get ripe for one.
In 2009, Junko’s new album “Musical Moment”, the first in eleven years, was finally released and turned out to be her best seller. Many fans raved about the “resurrection of the star pianist”, and there were even more new fans who realized that there is a “truly awesome jazz pianist” here in Japan.
In March 2009, Junko headed for New York. Her new and old peers Nicholas Payton, James Carter, Wycliffe Gordon, Reginald Veal, Rodney Whitaker and Herlin Riley were waiting for her in the recording studio. They swung like mad, roared their blues and flowed at will, resulting in “Baroque.” A photo shoot followed with photographer Mika Ninagawa, one of the prominent Japanese photographers (she has put on solo exhibitions in London, Paris and Berlin). The collaboration between the most creative talents in photography and jazz worlds has already attracted much attention in Japan, and “Baroque” proves Junko Ohnishi’s true maturity.