Born: October 14, 1953 Primary Instrument: Guitar
Born in 1953 in Tokyo, Kazumi Watanabe was taken up with the jazz tradition in his teens, and has studied electric guitar under Sadanori Nakamure. He made his solo debut in 1971 with the album INFINITE, and was acclaimed as a promising guitar prodigy.
In 1979, he joined a group of innovative musicians such as Ryuichi Sakamoto, Akiko Yano and Shuichi Murakami to form the legendary all-star band KYLYN, making an impact on the Japanese music scene. In autumn of the same year, he participated in the world tour of Yellow Magic Orchestra. Its huge success brought the name KAZUMI an international recognition.
His works during the 80s have built him a reputation as the precursor of jazz-fusion in Japan, especially with TOCHIKA, one of his record-breaking hit albums. Playing in the US (he worked with a stellar cast of established musicians, including Tony Levin, Sly and Robbie, Wayne Shorter, Patrick Moraz, Marcus Miller, Richard Bona and Peter Erskine) and Asian countries under his own leadership and performing with numerous top musicians of the world, he was prized Nanri Fumio Award in 1991 and Grand Prix of Jazz Disc in 1984, among others. In the 90s, Kazumi explored new ground in the classical idiom with accoustic guitar. He received enthusiastic welcome performing in European cities such as Barcelona and Rome in 1991, Sofia and Lisbon in 1995, and Paris in 1997. From his ESPRIT released in 1996 through DANDYZM(1998) up to ONE FOR ALL recorded live at the Bottom Line in New York, his recording works are representative of his original style which places Kazumi in the forefront of the music scene. Later on, he also launched into multimedia packages through DVD releases such as LES JEUX INTERDITS.
Chosen Best Jazzman 24 times in a row by Swing Journal's annual poll, he has been producing musical events, and improvising, composing and arranging in a constant approach to create his own musical universe.
To celebrate his 30 years of professional career, he presented the Suite for Guitar in January 2001, a composition/performance in which he challenged the realms of possibility of his cherished fretboard instrument - acoustic, electric and ethnic guitars.
Kazumi's passion for challenge and willingness to break the barrier of musical genres never cease to fascinate all music-lovers. He has been teaching jazz courses as a guest professor at Senzoku Gakuen College since 1996.