'How long does it take to become a great jazz musician? Would you believe five and a half years? That would seem to be the case with Eri Yamamoto who abandoned a budding classical career half a decade ago to pursue jazz studies at the New School.
Yamamoto had no jazz background whatsoever when she arrived in New York from Kyoto-something I can personally attest to, having heard her stumble through standards some years back at the Loisaida bar that is now Manitoba's. Saloon din tended to drown out Yamamoto's trio until she started pulling out her originals, the attentive silence that greeted them clued me in that fresh ideas were on the way.
Yamamoto's maturity is instantly evidence on the title cut/opener of 'UP&COMING,'her self-produced debut. The deceptively simple melody line demands perfect timing, and Yamamoto raises the degree of difficulty by upending it with a bridge in modified waltz-time. The way this impacts her solo is particularly breathtaking: On one chorus, she applies single-note lines reminiscent of Lennie Tristano; next, she alternates running trills with off-kilter phrases; and finally - just before a bass solo by John Graham Davis - she slides back and forth across drummer Ikuo Takeuchi's supple pulse. And yet that's only a small sampling of the pianist's breadth and economy. The five originals included here are demonstrate an extraordinarily rich compositional sensibility - to say nothing of a delicate touch - and what's most impressive is how they outpace Yamamoto's takes on classics like Miles Davis's 'ALL BLUES' and Vincent Youman's 'WITHOUT A SONG.'
I haven't caught Yamamoto's trio since it took up residence in the Village at Arthur's Tavern two years ago, but if the album is any indication, the time she's spent at the rambunctious watering hole has taught her hoe familiarity combined with subtlety can move a crowd. That understanding is crucial for any musician hoping to become a great player as quickly as she has.' K. Leander Williams (Music Writer) Time Out, NY Magazine 8/2/2001
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