Junko Onishi


Eleven years is a long time to be out of the spotlight. For a musician, 11 years between albums usually results in a drastic change in style, sometimes not for the better, or an outdated sound that attracts only die-hard fans. However, Junko Onishi, 42, avoids both these fates because of a couple of factors in her favor: the lack of massive shifts in style in jazz, especially in Japan, and her continued commitment to playing live during the last four years.

The jazz community welcomed the July 22 release of the pianist’s new album, “Musical Moments.” The August issue of Swing Journal, Japan’s biggest jazz magazine, even proclaimed on its front cover that “Junko is Back!”

With the new album comes a Japan-wide tour that Onishi has been on in the same trio with which she recorded the album. She continues to play piano with a breathlessly dizzying effect. Yet it all seems so effortless, without betraying any tension or premeditation. Bassist Yosuke Inoue and drummer Gene Jackson hold their own, but it is all about the piano. At times, Onishi will play solo as if in a recital, but whether playing standards or original compositions, the music is bound to enthrall listeners. Hopefully, as on her new album, she will play some tunes by the late, avant-garde sax, flute and bass clarinet player Eric Dolphy, her renditions of which are the highlight of each set.

Junko Onishi plays Billboard Osaka on Aug. 20-21, (060) 6342-7722; Hermit Dolphin in Hamamatsu on Aug. 25, (053) 451-1807; Sakura-za in Kofu, Yamanashi Prefecture, on Aug. 26, (055) 233-2031; Restaurant Hakuraibonkura in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, on Aug. 27, (0263) 40-0281; Jazz House Groovy in Nagano on Aug. 28, (026) 227-0480; Koln in Fuji, Shizuoka Prefecture, on Sept. 2, (0545) 52-0468; Tokyo Jazz Festival on Sept. 6, (www.tokyo-jazz.com); Nagoya Blue Note on Sept. 8, (052) 961-6311; Blue Note Tokyo on Sept. 11-12, (03) 5485-0088. Contact the venues for show times and prices.