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.