Primary Instrument: Piano
Chihiro Yamanaka, Universal Classics & Jazz recording artist, is one of the most exciting jazz pianists and composers of her generation, and the leader of the Chihiro Yamanaka Trio.
Chihiro Yamanaka’s new CD, Reminiscence (Universal/Decca), is her second U.S. release, following last year's U.S. major label debut, Forever Begins (Universal/Decca) and several acclaimed Universal/Verve releases in Japan. Reminiscence has already reached the #1 spot on the Japanese jazz charts and won the “Nissan Presents Jazz Japan Award 2011” for “Album of the Year.”
Next on the horizon is Chihiro's tribute to the Beatles, Because (Universal/Verve), a CD released in Japan in July, 2012 and due to hit the U.S. and Europe markets in coming months. This groundbreaking disc features some of the most creative reworkings of Beatles classics ever recorded. Along with the title track, Because (from Abbey Road), Chihiro transforms great songs such as Yesterday and Michelle into glittering displays of Chihiro's musical imagination. She recently introduced her new Beatles material to U.S. audiences in an astonishing concert at Iridium Jazz Club in New York City.
2012 has already been a milestone year for Chihiro, featuring the Chihiro Yamanaka Trio's first appearance in the Mary Lou Williams Women In Jazz Festival at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, where Chihiro amazed a sellout audience as part of a stellar festival line-up that included Grammy winner Terri Lyne Carrington's Mosaic Project and host Dee Dee Bridgewater.
Chihiro and Universal recently released a DVD, Live In New York, that was videotaped at Iridium Jazz Club in New York City. The DVD gives Chihiro’s fans the opportunity to experience not only the great sound of her band, but also the spectacular visual presentation seen by everyone who has witnessed the fireball of energy and virtuosity on display at a live Chihiro concert appearance.
Based in New York City, Chihiro’s international concert appearances have included a 2011 set at the Umbria Jazz Festival opening for Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Marcus Miller's Tribute to Miles. Chihiro has developed a tremendous fan base in Italy, touring there twice a year and performing at Italy’s most prestigious venues, such as the Blue Note Milano and Jazz Club Torino, and has expanded the field to Paris, where she has performed at Sunset-Sunside and Duc des Lombards. Chihiro's recent U.S. appearances included a benefit concert at Carnegie Hall and other east coast venues such as Regattabar in Boston, An die Musik in Baltimore. the Blue Note New York and Dizzy's Club at Jazz at Lincoln Center.
As acclaimed as Chihiro is in the U.S. and Europe, she is even more popular in Japan, where she’s had an amazing series of successes, with sold-out concert tours and with each of her many CDs reaching the #1 spot on the Japanese jazz charts – an auspicious start to a career that first gained worldwide attention with Chihiro’s 2005 “Best New Artist” award in Swing Journal Magazine.
The Chihiro Yamanaka Trio has featured some of the finest talent in jazz, including bassists Ben Williams, Larry Grenadier, Bob Hurst and Yoshi Waki, and drummers Bernard “Pretty” Purdie, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Kendrick Scott, Jeff Ballard and John Davis. In addition to her work as a bandleader, her in- demand status has led to concert appearances with Herbie Hancock, George Benson, Nancy Wilson, Clark Terry, Gary Burton, George Russell, Terri Lyne Carrington, the DIVA Jazz Orchestra and many more.
Chihiro’s 2009 CD, After Hours, won the “Japan Gold Disc Award” as the best-selling jazz disc of the year, and her 2007 CD, Abyss, won “Album of The Year” in the Swing Journal Magazine Readers’ Poll. Among her European CD releases is Lach Doch Mal, a masterpiece for both her virtuosity on piano and her strikingly original compositions. Highlights of Chihiro’s concerts and recordings also include her refreshingly unique arrangements of many of the most famous songs in the standard jazz repertoire. Jazz Life Magazine called Chihiro “one of the greatest talents in jazz for decades,” and jazz legend George Russell has hailed her as “a very gifted and imaginative musician.” Chihiro is also an accomplished classical pianist whose recent concerts have included a performance of Gershwin's Rhapsody In Blue with the Tokyo Symphony.
Chihiro’s impact on the international jazz scene was uncannily foreshadowed by the successes she had while still in college, first at the Royal Academy of Music in England and then at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where she won Down Beat’s Outstanding Performance Award and was honored by the International Association of Jazz Educators with her victory in the prestigious “Sisters In Jazz” competition in 2000.
In JazzTimes Magazine, Giovanni Russonello wrote a glowing review of Chihiro's set at the 2011 Umbria Jazz Festival opening for Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Marcus Miller. The biggest surprise of the night (other than, maybe, seeing Miller lead a band that included Shorter and Hancock) was Chihiro Yamanaka. Opening for the Tribute to Miles band with her trio, the Japanese pianist tore into two originals at the top of her set, sounding a bit like Mulgrew Miller on classically trained steroids, and with a progressive bent. When she announced 'Take Five,' the crowd let out a gleeful 'ahh'—but they weren’t ready for the voracious re-harmonization, full of upward- creeping basslines and chromatic descents, or her mid-song interpolation of 'In Your Own Sweet Way,' retrofitted in 5/4 time. Right and left, jaws were dropping.
(Courtesy of Scott Foster Media)