Junko Onishi Biography

16 April 1967, Kyoto, Japan. Raised in Tokyo, Onishi studied classical piano meanwhile developing an interest in jazz and in particular the work of Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, and Ornette Coleman. After moving to the USA, she studied at the Berklee College Of Music then moved to New York City. There, she worked with Betty Carter, Kenny Garrett, Joe Henderson, Joe Lovano, Jackie McLean, Mingus Dynasty and Phil Woods among many. As leader, she recorded in trio format with Billy Higgins and Rodney Whitaker, while other sidemen on her dates have included Karriem Riggins and Marcus Belgrave. Onishi has an unusual repertoire, mixing jazz classics, with pop and rock hits and her own compositions. Thus, a typical date might include music such as Billy Strayhorn’s ‘Take The “A” Train’, Charles Mingus’ ‘Peggy’s Blue Skylight’ and ‘Orange Was The Color Of Her Dress, Then Blue Silk’, Cream’s ‘Sunshine Of Your Love’, and her own ‘Piano Quintet Suite’, ‘Naturally’, ‘Tony’ and ‘Eulogia Variation’. The result of this mingling has caused some listeners and reviewers to question Onishi’s musical judgement but much of the negative criticism appears directed at neither the jazz pieces nor her own compositions but at the material from other genres, this reflecting more on the commentators than on the artist. Onishi’s style demonstrates her deep understanding of the tradition of jazz piano and displays her virtuosity and invention.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.