Yoko talks about her introduction to jazz
“I was born with perfect pitch. Even before I started taking piano lessons I played everything by ear. I remember everyone was very impressed and although I was only 4 years old I somehow realized this was something I was good at.“The thing is I didn’t know anything about music, I could hear all the notes in a chord but I didn’t know what a chord was! I wanted to take piano lessons and in Japan the way to study piano was (and mostly still is) from the classical music tradition. That meant reading music and memorizing, for those who don’t know that’s what you do when you play classical – you play a piece of written music. The talent of perfect pitch, which is what initially got me interested in
music, was no longer being used.
“Don’t get me wrong, I love classical music (particularly Chopin and Beethoven), and it afforded me with technique for playing the piano, not to mention all the necessary music theory. I became a classical pianist and enrolled at the Osaka College of Music in Japan. I continued to use my perfect pitch on my own to figure out other music or songs that I liked and it was still an asset for learning classical pieces, but I wasn’t using it to full capacity in my directed music studies. That would eventually change.
“One day I saw the movie titled Always, and one of the main songs in the movie just hit me on such a deep level. It was “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.” I
remember asking my friend what this music was and they said, jazz! This was the moment when I knew this was the music I wanted to play.”