Mamiko Watanabe
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Mamiko Watanabe

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE
Band Jazz Latin


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"All About Jazz NY May 2007-CD"One After Another" Review"

With the release of One After Another, add Mamiko Watanabe to the list of talented jazz pianists that have come out of Japan in recent years. Watanabe composed all of the songs on this impressive debut and they show a strong, fully developed hard bop sensibility. Watanabe's composing MO is to start off a song with a strong theme or head, as a sort of attention-grabbing mechanism, then to pull it back to where it becomes an exploratory vehicle for the soloists ("The Deep Sea exemplifies this as much as any song on the disc). The tunes are challenging and well-crafted and while Watanabe is a fine pianist, her composing is actually her most compelling aspect.
The Latin-flavored "Shadow begins with an impressive fusillade of percussion by Francisco Mela, who plays over a repeated figure and features highlights and spices from saxophonist Walter Smith. "Savanna opens in a space where pianist McCoy Tyner seemed apt to go, Smith playing deftly across the melody and clever hard bop arrangement. The band performs well on the Monk-inspired "Take It Easy, which has melodic and thematic whisps of Monk, but not, ironically enough, in Watanabe's playing.

"Say Something is another hard bop foray, simple in construction yet eloquent. "Labyrinth, too, has an off-center construction, with the chord progression leading to unexpected corners. "Jour de Pluie a Paris is an ambitious, exploratory waltz ballad on which Massimo Biolcati contributes some especially nice pizzicato and Watanabe explores every possibility the tune has to offer.

- All About Jazz NY

"Jazz Impov Magazine 2007-Live Performance Review"

On a drizzly evening in mid-March, I had the pleasure of listening to a fabulous pianist and her trio, in comfortable surroundings, while enjoying a terrific meal. The lounge at Kitano seats about 45 patrons in a tight, but comfortably arranged lounge on the mezzanine of this modern hotel. Located in the Murray Hill section of Manhattan, the bar looks out over Park Avenue. Proprietor Gino Moratti makes you feel right at home with a smile as he shows you to your seat. I chose a light meal for my dinner, which consisted of the Asian Chicken Salad, washed down with a Brooklyn Lager-a fine match, and highly recommended. The only thing left to do was to relax and get down to enjoying the sounds of Mamiko Watanabe, Massimo Biolcati and Ferenc Nemeth. Mamiko introduced herself, and the pianist's quiet demeanor belies her powerful approach to the keys, as I was soon to discover.

The first set began with an original composition by Watanabe. "A Veil of Secrecy" is an up-tempo piece, with an arrangement that allowed for comments from the bass and drums. It was right into 4/4 swing for Watanabe's first solo of the night, where she took her time, being careful not to clutter things up at the beginning. Strong communication between Biolcati and Nemeth emerged while the two were engaged in egging the pianist on. Mamiko left plenty of space to allow things to happen, and I was immediately drawn to Nemeth's provocative yet tasteful drum work. A montuno gave way to a vamp figure, over which Nemeth unfurled polyrhythms and employed an aggressive volume that was not the least bit unwelcome in the low-profile room.

Next, the pianist set up what she calls her "favorite Jazz standard" with a Latin vamp. On this performance of "Here's That Rainy Day",Watanabe let loose some pentatonic McCoy-flavored runs over this vamp, her right hand slightly arpeggiating the chords, which added a lush quality to the opening segment. Her arrangement once again generously assigned hits and fills to her supportive counterparts. Nemeth was right in synch with Watanabe's left hand while her right danced freely across the keys. Bassist Biolcati took a strong solo with a big, woody tone, and lines that clearly showed respect for the arrangement. The performance gave a sense of strength in reserve, and provoked great applause. As someone in the audience shouted, "Yes, Ma'am!"

The lovely ballad "Even If" began out of time, with sparkling keys, mallets rolling on cymbals and sustained plucked notes from the bass. The melody was rendered in a "1" feel that the bassist eventually transformed into a "2" feel, while Nemeth switched to brushes. The trio sustained a floating feel that let you hear them breathing as one. Nemeth and Biolcati made soft and subtle trasitions through each change in the groove on this great tune, one that I swear I've hread before...

Next up was a lively tune in seven. "The game is Ready" distinguished itself with a "modal" sound that included a montuno to set off Mamiko's solo over a single chord vamp. Nemeth quickly breathed life into the groove, pushing Mamiko to new heights as she sustained a pattern in her right hand, while her left hand developed ideas independently. After reaching a pinnacle, the band returned to the song's head, and then revisited the vamp as a backdrop to Nemeth's drum solo.Watanabe virtully transformed the standard "Beautiful Love", beginning with a solo rubato intro peppered with Tatum-esque runs in between the phrases. The harmony bore the stamp of a strong composer and arranger, who knows how to polish up an oft-played tune. Her right hand took over for a bit during her improvisation.-while the left hand laid out-creating sonic openness as she began sequencing a string of ideas, much like Herbie Hancock.

The penultimate "Jewel" was dedicated to a soon-to-be-wed cousin in Japan, and was rendered as a bluesy waltz. Echoes of Silver and Golson could be heard throughout the piece. The pianist accented parts of her phrases, evoking several meters at once. Later, even though her melody became a bit literal and obvious, she quickly dissolved the cutesiness with rich chards and looser time feel. The song's ending became an unsure moment for the players at first, but their shared skills and sense of trust saved the day.The set ended with another original, this one entitled: " Shadow". The fast, modern samba, featurred a pair of chords as a vamp, the third piece to emply a montuno, albeit briefly.

This woman puts on a real show: her set of tunes has a great flow, careful sequencing, no dead spots whatsoever, interesting arrangements and clever reharmonizations. Watanabe also chose strong musicians to carry the music to new and exciting places. There was almos no hesitation from the players, especially on the originals: strong playing, trust, generous interplay, and a shared sense of adventure. It was clear too that Watanabe and Nemeth really enjoyed playing off each other, and the pianist's comp - Jazz Improv Magazine by Joe Knips

" 2007-CD"ORIGIN/JEWEL" Review"

Pianist Mamiko Watanabe’s double CD Origin/Jewel is a double shot of energy and execution. Ms. Watanabe explores Funk/Latin genres on Origin, and straight-ahead piano trio jazz with a contemporary feel on Jewel. One can no longer call Mamiko Watanabe an up and coming pianist. She is classically trained, studied jazz at Berklee, and has already performed with the likes of Joe Lavano, Kevin Mohogany, Bobby McFerrin, Tiger Okoshi, and Phil Wilson. She has been heard at numerous festivals and New York clubs, and is sure to go far with her stunning array of compositional abilities.

Origin reveals a worldly character in Ms. Watanabe. Incorporating African and Calypso rhythms, her odd meter grooves pulsate with Latin funk guaranteed to make you move your feet. The first track “Keep Moving On” sets the tone with the help of trumpeter Maurice Brown and saxophonist Karel Ruzicka, reminiscent of certain Brecker Brothers recordings. “A Little Piece for Dance” may be the most fun you will have all day, and “Smile” is exactly what happens from the next track, if not the whole disc.

All selections on Origin/Jewel are composed and arranged by Ms. Watanabe, except “Here’s That Rainy Day” (VanHeusen), and “Beautiful Love” (Young), both of which are found on the Jewel disc. These classic standards balance Ms. Watanabe’s more contemporary pieces. Jewel is as much fun as Origin, but is more sentimental toward the straighter side of jazz. Her treatment of the trio format is superb with each member contributing to the interplay of the intimate setting.

Unafraid to explore and incorporate different styles, Mamiko Watanabe plays and composes with passion and direction. The tremendous personnel included on Origin/Jewel animate this passion to a high level of energy, fun, and sophistication. -


"One After Another"(2005)


"Mother Earth"(2010)



“Unafraid to explore and incorporate different styles, Mamiko Watanabe plays and composes with passion and direction” -

“Watanabe's piano playing and leadership on both discs is deft, challenging and always solid.” - All About Jazz NY Magazine

“Ms.Watanabe already has a sound of her own plus impressive technique. Her creativity is impressive throughout these modern mainstreem performances and she is a skilled songwriter.” - Scott Yanow; The Los Angeles Jazz Scene Magazine

With exposure to the different styles such Jazz, Funk, Latin, Gospel and inspired from being surrounded by unique melodies and rhythm while working with Brazilian and African decent, pianist Mamiko Watanabe is trying to create uniquely her own sound and give "good vibration" to people through music.

Mamiko Watanabe was born in Fukuoka, Japan and began studying piano at age four at the Yamaha Music School. In 1999 she revived a scholarship to attend Berklee College of Music and studied Jazz piano, Improvisation and Composition. She was a semi-finalist at the prestigious Montreux Jazz Festival Solo Piano Competition in Montreux, Switzerland both in 2002 and 2003. She has toured Germany, Italy and Japan and has performed with several jazz greats such as Joe Lovano, Kevin Mahogany, Bobby McFerrin, Tiger Okoshi and Phil Wilson while in college. In 2003 she received the DownBeat Student Award in the Jazz Soloist Category before she made the decision to move to New York and expand her musical horizons. Since then, Mamiko has performed at notable venues such as The Kitano, Blue Note NY Sunday Brunch & Late Night Groove Series, 55 Bar, Garage, Zinc Bar, The Lenox Lounge, Blues Alley (in Washington, D.C.), The Kennedy Center, Victoria Theater (at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center), The Knitting Factory, Bitter End, Joe's Pub and S.O.B.'s.

Her exposure to several different styles of music such as Latin, Gospel, Reggae, Funk and R&B is the result of her working with several Afro-Brazilian and African bands and playing Gospel in Church every Sunday morning. She has worked with Roland Alexander Quintet, Joe Ford, Valery Ponomarev Big Band & His Quintet and Afro-Brazilian groups such "Ogans", "Dende" and "Velly Bahia & Kazwa Band".

As a leader, Mamiko recorded her album, "One After Another" in 2005 and released her second album,"ORIGIN/JEWEL” in 2007 which in fact is actually the combination of two separate discs; "ORIGIN" is a collection of the Funk and Latin influences compositions and "JEWEL" contains works recorded in a more straight-ahead jazz piano trio format. Her latest album "Mother Earth" was released in 2010.