Kaoru Watanabe, Brooklyn-based musician and composer, is known for seamlessly combining traditional ritual and theater musics of Japan with complex compositional and improvisational elements of jazz and other global musics. Kaoru was a performing member and artistic director of the iconic Japanese taiko performing arts group Kodo for close to a decade. Since leaving Kodo, Watanabe has collaborated with such luminaries as Japanese National Living Treasure Bando Tamasaburo, MacArthur Fellow Jason Moran, So Percussion and was a featured guest on Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble’s Grammy Award winning album Sing Me Home. Watanabe also created music for Martin Scorsese’s Silence. Watanabe has performed his compositions at such prestigious venues as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, The Kennedy Center, Whitney Museum and Kabukiza and maintains an international touring schedule. Kaoru has taught at such prestigious institutions as the Tanglewood Festival and Princeton University and through Miyamoto Unosuke Shoten’s online resource, KaDON.
Master shinobue maker Ranjo has called Watanabe’s sound on the fue the “greatest in the world”.
Watanabe started an ensemble he calls Néo to hone his artistic voice, which culminated in the album Néo, self-released in 2016. Sonically rooted in traditional Japanese music with compositional and improvisational elements of jazz and classical music, the album was described as “so ethereal that words to describe it skip like a breeze on water. It encompasses time and space from a culture that remains elusive and exotic, yet is audibly accessible in this presentation.” by James Nadal from All About Jazz. Besides the common meaning of something new, the word Néo in Japanese is made up of two characters: “Né” which means sound and “o”, which can be translated as together, bound or knot, depending on the context. Watanabe hopes to encompass all these meanings into his music, to bind together the various threads of influence in a unique and personal way.
composed by Kaoru Watanabe
Fumi Tanakadate (taiko)
Kaoru Watanabe (taiko and Noh Kan)
Kaoru Watanabe with Chieko Kojima, Mathew Garrison, Gamin
1) “One” composed and performed by Kaoru Watanabe (shinobue, noh kan, taiko)
2) “Improvisations on Dojoji” starting at 8′ 38″
Matthew Garrison – bass
Chieko Kojima – dance, percussion
Kaoru Watanabe – taiko and percussion