Yoko Miwa

From the blog


Jazz And Buddhism

Image via http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/archive/index.php/t-12161.html
Image via http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/archive/index.php/t-12161.html

Hi friends, it’s Jason Crane, the webmaster and blog writer here at YokoMiwa.com. I’m a Buddhist, and I was curious about whether there are many jazz musicians who are also Buddhists, or who’ve composed music related to Buddhism. I knew about Wayne Shorter, of course, because he’s been very open about his Buddhism for decades. But I wanted to see if anybody else was out there. Could we put a Buddhist band together? Let’s find out.

The Boddhisattva Band

Saxophone: Wayne Shorter. Wayne Shorter has been a Buddhist for many years. He’s a member of Soka Gakkai International, a large lay-Buddhist organization. One Buddhist-related piece by Wayne is this one, which he wrote for Burmese democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi:

Piano: Herbie Hancock. That’s right: longtime friends and bandmates Herbie and Wayne are both Nichiren Buddhists. Herbie said that hearing Buster Williams play a solo on the tune “Toys” one night was what led him to Buddhism. You can read the story here.

Bass: Buster Williams. Via the story related above by Herbie Hancock, I learned that Buster Williams is also a Buddhist. Here’s Buster and his quartet earlier this year at Dizzy’s in New York:

That gives us a pretty fabulous trio. I couldn’t find a drummer. If you know of someone, let me know in the comments.

Finally, a little side note. If we wanted to add in some vocal talent from outside the jazz world, we’ve got a pretty solid start with Leonard Cohen, Tina Turner, Ad-Rock, David Bowie and kd lang. Of course, several of them will have to reincarnate first.


  1. David Mott recently retired from York University, in Toronto, where he taught and was chair of the music department. He has been a practicing Zen Buddhist for decades, he is a grand master of Uechiryu (Okinawan) karate, and he has written and played original jazz, with music available on cd. info@davidmottmusic.com

  2. U ask about drummers who r practicing Buddhiism? I can name several, but will say first Mike Clark who just might b perfect in the list u have started with Wayne and Herbie. Another I will mention is Eric Harland who not long ago released his cd “Vipassana”.

      1. You’re entirely welcome Yoko. There is one more I would like to add if you don’t mind. Drummer Alex Cline released earlier this year “Oceans Of Vows” on Cryptogramophone Records, a wonderfully majestic suite inspired by and dedicated to his teacher Thich Nhat Hanh. Alex and I had quite a conversation following the release of the cd, I will let you know when I’ve done a bit of editing and have it posted.

  3. Other notable musicians who practice Buddhism are:

    Edward Simon (Jazz Pianist and Composer)
    Néstor Torres (Jazz Flutist and Composer)
    Esperanza Spalding) Jazz Bassist, Singer and Composer)
    Patti Austin ( Legendary Vocalist in many styles)
    Howard Johnson (Singer and Composer)

    There are quite a few out there who are practitioners.

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