A technically adept guitarist with a dynamic, highly inventive, jazz fusion-based sound, Kazumi Watanabe is one of Japan’s most prolific and recognizable instrumentalists. Although primarily focused on jazz, Watanabe has left his mark on such varied genres as hard rock, electronic pop, and ambient classical music. Since debuting in the ’70s, the early prodigy has built an impressive body of work with numerous solo projects and collaborations with such luminaries as Ryuichi Sakamoto, Mike Mainieri, Bill Bruford, and many more.
Born in Tokyo in 1953, Watanabe became interested in music at a young age, starting out on the piano at age seven. However, by age 12 he had picked up a guitar, inspired by the twangy electric surf rock of the Ventures and, later, the warm and soulful jazz of Wes Montgomery. Although naturally gifted and largely hailed as a prodigy, he did study for a time with Sadanori Nakamure at the Yamaha Music School in Tokyo. At age 17, Watanabe made his recorded debut with 1971’s Infinite, a sprawling set of edgy modal jazz.
He then signed with Columbia and delivered a handful of highly regarded efforts including 1974’s Endless Way, 1977’s Lonesome Cat, and 1977’s Olive’s Step, all of which found him embracing a bold crossover jazz and rock sound. His 1978 album, Mermaid Boulevard, further solidified his fusion star status with an all-star lineup featuring Lee Ritenour, Ernie Watts, Patrice Rushen, Harvey Mason, and others. He also toured often during this period, appearing with many of Japan’s top performers including Sadao Watanabe, Isao Suzuki, Masaru Imada, and others. Read more…Artist Biography by Matt Collar | All Music
Below are a few recordings by guitarist/composer Kazumi Watanabe to test drive …
To Chi Ka