Chieko Yano
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Chieko Yano

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"Chieko Yano - Blue Sonata"

O's Notes: Yano took residence in Chicago ten years ago and since then, she's been fusing her Asian culture and a wide array of moods with classical and pop elements in her jazz performances. We get a taste on Blue Sonata, a good mix of originals and classic covers. She likes using blue vocal tones notably on the title track and "Someday My Prince Will Come. We found some bossa nova on "Should I Wait For" and "Once I Loved". Chieko sings, plays piano and guitar. Her band includes Geof Bradfield (sax), Tom Garling (tb), Noritaka Tanaka (d) and a few bassists, most notably Matt Young who has a strong solo on "Koujou No Tsuki". We liked Yano's piano work on “Like Someone In Love" and her vocals on the blues of "Foie Gras At The Motel 6".
- O's Place Jazz Newsletter

"CD Review- Chieko Yano's Blue Sonata"

Yokohama-born musician/singer Chieko Yano is an enormously gifted pianist, singer, songwriter and guitarist, who appears here in Chicago at the Dragonfly and other venues. Her first release, “Blue Sonata” is a truly charming and satisfying endeavor featuring compelling originals and standards alike, all spiced with Asian, classical and jazz influences.

The title track opens the proceedings and pulls the listener into its haunting atmosphere. Yano’s gentle, but meaningful vocals lilt shyly and sweetly, perfectly complementing her piano lines — which dance along as airily and beautifully as cherry blossoms in a spring breeze. Meanwhile, sensitive support is provided by Matt Young’s perceptive acoustic bass and Noritaka Tanaka’s painterly drumtracks.

Patrick Williams handles the bass on over half the songs, including the delightful, bluesy next number “Foie Gras at the Motel 6,” which revels in Yano’s sly wordplay, while featuring some nice solo touches from Tanaka and Geof Bradford on ballsy tenor sax.

Not merely an exceptional musician and singer/songwriter, Yano’s lyrics reveal intelligently penetrating thought expressed through deceptively simple, haiku-like lines. On the wonderful “Should I Wait For,” Yano sings her lines in both Japanese and English, while harmonizing with herself, as well as playing the nylon string guitar part. Husband Tom Garling’s trombone solo fits well and adds another complementary timbre.

The rest of the album includes interesting covers of, among others, “Someday My Prince Will Come,” “Once I Loved,” “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To,” “The Days of Wine and Roses,” and a choice multi-tracked vocal version of one of my favorite Duke Ellington pieces, “Solitude.” All are done very well, and the classical, wide-ranging jazz and Asian harmonizations Yano adds, as well as the attention to the small details in the production, make for enjoyable listening indeed.

The covers are extremely well done and will please listeners who enjoy hearing the standards given their due, but for me, the most intriguing element of this recording is the original voice that this talented young artist exhibits in her own compositions, and makes me long to hear more from her. Originals like the instrumental “Embrace” (featuring Scott Mason on bass) and the “The Moment You Touch Me” are true gems and examples of the type of modern “standards” we in the jazz world should be trumpeting. “Blue Sonata” is a stellar debut from an important artist who needs to be heard from. - Walseth

"CD Review - Chieko Yano's Blue Sonata"

Chieko Yano is an up-and-coming jazz pianist and singer who already has her own distinctive sound and style. Although Blue Sonata is her recording debut, she emerges fully formed, adding to the vocabulary of jazz with five new songs while not sounding like any of her predecessors.

Born in Yokohama, Japan, she remembers, "I heard classical music very early and took piano lessons from the time I was three. My parents chose my record collection and they were all classical records. However in high school I was a saxophone player and I
did not touch the piano or sing for quite awhile. I found that I loved the freedom and interaction of jazz, playing with other people and not always knowing what was going to happen next." Determined to be a composer and arranger, she gradually returned to both singing and playing piano, often working as a backup singer and writing arrangements for other performers.

In 1998, Chieko moved to Chicago to attend school Soon she was working regularly as a pianist, working as both a sideman and a leader, sharing the stage with Wynton Marsalis, Harold Jones, John Fedchock and Carl Allen. She met and married trombonist Tom Garling and started to raise a family while continuing to play music. In 2006 she began to sing much more often and is now gaining a strong reputation as a pianist-singer with her own approach to jazz.

Quite a bit of planning went into Blue Sonata. Chieko Yano utilizes some of her favorite musicians. "I prefer to have players who have a floating and loose feel to their rhythms, not choppy at all. That is especially important for the drummer, and I prefer that my drummer be able to read music too. I'm fortunate to have Noritaka Tanaka who I've known for 13 years. On bass I use Patrick Williams or Matt Young. Patrick, who I met eight years ago, has a swinging feel and a sound like Ray Brown. Matt Young is new to Chicago having just moved here last year. He is young, knows a lot of songs, and is very good at performing with singers." In addition tenor-saxophonist Goef Bradfield helps out on two selections and Tom Garling guests on "Should I Wait For."

The program opens with three of Chieko's colorful and thoughtful originals. "Blue Sonata" is a wistful love song that finds her questioning her good fortune and asking "Was it just for now, or was it for good?" "Foie Gras At The Motel 6" is an ironic twist on a real incident. Tom Garling played at a luxurious hotel and, to his surprise, was served food that was barely edible. "He thought maybe I should write a song about
that but I decided to write about the opposite, having a surprisingly great meal at an inexpensive motel." The catchy minor blues features a strong tenor solo from Goef Bradfield. On the bossa-nova "Should I Wait For," a piece about difficult decisions with lyrics in both Japanese and English, Chieko is featured on guitar and, via overdubbing, as her own vocal group, with Tom Garling adding a fluent trombone solo.

"Someday My Prince Will Come," taken as a duet with Patrick Williams, precedes the Japanese folk song, "Koujou No Tsuki," which is effectively turned into jazz and features Matt Young's bowed bass at its start along with Chieko's haunting vocal. "Like Someone In Love" shows off Chieko's melodic invention as she takes the vintage piece as a piano solo. A trio of standards, Jobim's "Once I Loved," Duke Ellington's "Solitude" (which has Chieko's overdubbed voices singing a capella) and Cole Porter's "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To," sound fresh and new in these inventive interpretations.

"Embrace," which has Scott Mason on bass along with Chieko and Nori Tanaka, is a lyrical and introspective ballad. A swinging version of "The Days And Wine And Roses" precedes the set's final number, "The Moment You Touch Me," a song with a particularly memorable melody. Throughout Blue Sonata, the many aspects of
Chieko Yano's musical career are heard including classical sonata forms, impressionistic harmony, original chord changes, the swing and improvising of jazz, and an Asian flavor.
For the future, Chieko's main goal is to have her music more widely heard, not only in Chicago and the United States but in Japan. With the release of Blue Sonata, it seems only a matter of time before many others will discover her strong musical talent.

- Author of nine jazz books including Jazz On Film-Scott Yanow

"Chieko's Blue Sonata"

Interesting, soothing vocals come from Blue Sonata. This is the debut album by a Chicago area jazz vocalist. But this is no ordinary vocalist. Her name is Chieko Yano.

Born and raised in Japan , Chieko was a mainstay on the Tokyo jazz scene for several years, as an arranger, vocalist and a pianist. She came to the U.S. and moved to Chicago in 1998. Once there, Chieko began playing a lot of venues on the Chicago jazz scene, especially places like Hot House, Velvet Lounge and Smoke Daddy. Chieko also began a long standing gig at the Café Shino Piano Bar.

Having settled in the U.S. , Chieko began to write music that incorporated both her Asian roots and those of her new country. This music is a unique mix of cultural styles that transcends into Chieko's arrangements of already established songs that she performs. This distinctive styling and song arrangement stands out on this debut album, Blue Sonata.

Blue Sonata was arranged and produced by Chieko. The album was mostly recorded at the Swing Odyssey Studio, with a few tracks recorded at Chieko's home studio. It has a dozen tracks and lasts fifty-three and a half minutes. Chieko wrote five of the songs on the album.

The performers on the album are Geof Bradfield, Matt Young, Tom Garling, Noritaka Tanaka and Chieko. Bradfield plays sax and Tanaka the drums. Young plays bass on four of the songs, while Patrick Williams plays bass on four others and Scott Mason does bass on one other. Garling, who is also Chieko's husband, plays trombone on the album. As for Chieko, she does the vocals, plays guitars and both keys and piano.

Chieko starts us out with the title track, Blue Sonata. A subtle, yet sultry song, Chieko shows she can really sing a jazz torch song. She also wrote this song, which features a pretty decent piano solo by her.

Foie Gras At The Motel 6 is an interesting song. Is the song truly about getting a taste of rich, buttery duck or goose liver? Or is this about being sated by something like lust at a low rent motel? Hot and saucy, you could get a chill listening to the song. And there is some killer sax in the song too.

Should I Wait For is sang in both Japanese and English. This is a Jobim samba styled song that will have you moving about quickly. Speaking of Jobim, Chieko is great on his wonderful samba tune Once I Loved.

Cheiko does a really good job of covering Someday My Prince Will Come. She does especially well with a piano intro.

Strong bass serves as the intro for Koujou No Tsuki. This is a mostly instrumental piece, with some vocals sung in Japanese.

As she did with the previous cover, Chieko performs a wonderful rendition of the Van Heusen tune, Like Someone In Love.

Digging back into the true classics, Chieko sings a nice rendition of Duke Ellington's Solitude. And she follows that up with a decent cover of You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To. Not to be excluded, Chieko also does a wonderful job with The Days of Wine and Roses.

The other two songs on the album are Chieko originals, Embrace and The Moment You Touch Me. Embrace is a terrific piano piece with light brushes providing a nice background. The Moment You Touch Me has aching, longing vocals.

The U.S. and Chicago have gotten a wonderful gift in Chieko Yano. Her expert piano playing, as well as her great vocals and wonderful songwriting, make Chieko a very welcome addition to the jazz world.

Blue Sonata can be purchased from CD Baby, a couple of places in Chicago and from Chieko herself. To find out the latest about the album and Chieko herself, visit .

-, Bruce Von Stiers

"M is for Maybe Just One More Round, Thanks"

"I like that you're lounging," one of the M Lounge bartenders said to my companion and I, gesturing towards our slouched postures and her bare feet, by then thrust onto the plush seat next to us. "Not enough people do that here."

Though we'd settled into our surroundings by that point, I completely understood why some patrons here might be reluctant to relax. When you first walk into the M Lounge, it's tough to decipher the mood. The long room that comprises most of it (there's also a small private space in the back) seems fresh off a photo shoot. Small candles flicker on every low table, tasteful lights hang from the ceiling to illuminate the beautiful walnut bar, and even the soft seats that line the walls seem in perfect order. Upon arrival, it's safe to say I wasn't really in my element; but isn't that what alcohol is for? We dug into the sizable martini list ($10-$14 a pop) and waited for the music to start.

Tuesdays may be "Hot Latin Nights" here, but on Wednesdays, there's a revolving door of groups who play a mix of classic and new jazz compositions. On this night we were treated to a quartet of sorts; the performance began with Chieko Yano on keyboard and Matt Young on bass, the duo soon joined by a saxophonist/oboist (I didn't catch his name) and vocalist Julie Volkmann. We chose a table at the far end of the bar, perhaps subconsciously realizing that the spectacle of our multiple martini spills might distract the musicians were we to sit closer. It proved to be a poor choice; unless the band intended to be accompanied by a martini shaker, we really missed the full aural experience.

The rest of the experience, however, was top notch. Defying my initial impressions, the M Lounge proved to be a very welcoming, comfortable place, truly living up to its "lounge" moniker. Owner and occasional bartender Reggie Marsh was attentive and friendly, as he and wife Maryann made the rounds to chat with the ever-growing crowd. Reflective of the incipient diversity of the South Loop, the population here was as varied as the outfits on display; we spied everything from suits and polo shirts to one (memorable) instance of short shorts.

Though the sounds might not always have poked through to the back, it was clear the music increased in quality throughout the night. Maybe it was the beer I caught the keyboardist chugging between sets, or maybe just the heat, but once she removed her suit coat and began to really play, the set was a little livelier. As the night wore on, I even found myself tapping my foot involuntarily; of course, those two Perfect 10s (Tanqueray and a twist) might have had something to do with it.

My only complaint? The two flat screens behind the bar were tuned to Turner Classic Movies all night, which meant we were treated to a healthy dose of Anthony Quinn in "Guns for San Sebastian." A fine contribution to the Western canon, I'm sure, but a little out of place for this venue. If you're going to go that direction, at least give me some Sportscenter...really, though, a little film noir would've been perfect.

Overall, the M Lounge did not disappoint; if you like a little pleasant music to accompany your conversation, you can't go wrong here. While I might have walked in a little tense, I left with a smile on my face. And it wasn't just because a guy stopped me to tell me how "hot" my beard was.

The M Lounge, 1520 S. Wabash, has live jazz every Wednesday night from 8-11 p.m.

Ben Rubenstein jumps under the covers every other week in an ongoing search for freebie music that rocks. If you know of a no-cover night he should check out, email him.

- Center Stage Chicago - Ben Rubenstein


Blue Sonata (2007)



Chieko Yano is an intriguing and talented musician who is making a name for herself throughout the Midwest and beyond. Born in Yokohama, Japan, Yano began playing classical piano at the age of three. She developed her own musical vocabulary through the experience of various other instruments, including saxophone, voice, guitar, and bass. She received formal training from jazz pianist, Frank Caruso, and concert pianist, Michael Yanovitsky. After working for several years as a vocalist, pianist, and arranger in Tokyo, Yano moved to Chicago in 1998.
She soon appeared on the famed Chicago jazz scene as a pianist. She performed at such reputable venues as Pops for Champagne, Isaac Hayes Center, Hot House, Fitzgerald's, Smoke Daddy, Velvet Lounge, and M Lounge. She also began a long-running residency at Cafe Shino's Piano Bar .

Yano's experience at these venues gave her the opportunity to perform with a number of respected musicians. She shared the stage with Winton Marsalis, Harold Jones, and Carl Allen. She also performed with Tom Garling, a trombone player whom she would eventually marry.

Following her marriage to Garling, Yano settled in the United States. She started to reconsider her roots and origins. This led to a desire to incorporate Asian-influenced sounds into her brand of jazz. It was also at this time that Yano began focusing on her singing and vocal compositions.

Yano will be releasing her first album in June, 2007. It will include jazz standards, originals, and Japanese folk songs. She is fortunate to have some of the best musicians in Chicago featured on the album. Some of these include Garling, sax player Geof Bradfield, bassist Patt Willians, bassist Matt Young and drummer Noritaka Tanaka.

The self-produced CD has different approaches to the genre of jazz: it combines a taste of Asian flavor with vocal overdubbing. It also features classical sonata forms, classical impressionism harmony, odd meter changes, and interesting key changes. It is both Yano's wide vocal range and strong musical background which allow these different elements to blend so well. As further proof of her musical talents, Yano also plays the classical guitar on her new CD.

Currently, Yano is performing in Chicago and the surrounding region. She sings in both Japanese and English. This flexibility is now an essential element to her sound. Live, Yano emphasizes improvisation and her piano playing. She considers herself a pianist who happens to sing, rather than a vocalist who plays the piano. Her performance has been known to sway from sensitive and evocative one minute, to feisty, playful, and ferocious the next. Yano's performance can be seen every Tuesday at Cafe Shino (211E.Ontario, Chicago), and 3rd Friday of every month at the Dragonfly Mandarin Restaurant (832 W. Randolph St., Chicago).


Chieko Yano has performed with:

Taku Akiyama, Carl Allen, Geof Bradfield, Vincent Davis, Savoir Faire, John Fedchock, Tom Garling, Phil Gratteau, Harold Jones, Bob Long, Winton Marsalis, Scott Mason, Rob Parton, Marlene Rosenberg, Noritaka Tanaka, Mayo Tiana, Patrick Williams, Barry Winograd,

She has performed at:
Jazz Showcase, Pops for Champagne, Greenmill, Isaac Hayes Center, Hot House, Fitzgerald's, Smoke Daddy, M Lounge, Cafe Shino's Piano Bar, Meson Sabika, Velvet Lounge, Chicago's First Lady, Wendella Boat, Small Bar, Salvartore's Restaurant, Taste of Chicago, Tower Club, the Chicago Club, the Charleston, Hilton Hotels, Marriott, and the Congress Hotel