“Yoko Miwa has been gifted with both extraordinary musical skills and has the pure spirit that is necessary for great art. We love her musical gifts and her beautiful spirit as well.” – Ahmad Jamal
“Miwa is a virtuoso pianist with dazzling technique always in the service of interaction and exchange of ideas.” – Donald Elfman, NYC Jazz Record
“Pianist Yoko Miwa displays unpretentious melodies, elegant phrasing, and the lyrical sensibility of a jazz poet.” – Jazziz Magazine
“She has the enviable ability to play in any context with authenticity, clarity, and spontaneity…” – Wilbert Sostre, JazzTimes
“I greatly appreciate and respect the clarity and strength in Yoko’s playing, it is very apparent – the honesty, care and depth of foundation she touches the piano with.” – Benny Green
Internationally acclaimed pianist/composer Yoko Miwa is one of the most powerful and compelling performers on the scene today. Her trio, with its remarkable telepathy and infectious energy, has brought audiences to their feet worldwide. Yoko was named a Rising Star Pianist in the 2022 DownBeat Critics Poll. The Yoko Miwa Trio’s 2021 release Songs of Joy received wide acclaim and reached #1 on national jazz radio charts and was voted a best jazz album of 2021 in the DownBeat 86th Annual Readers Poll. Jazziz called it “a radiant new collection.” CD Hotlist said “…yet another triumph from one of America’s finest jazz pianists, composers, and bandleaders.” Their 2019 CD, Keep Talkin’, showcases Miwa’s fine playing and artful compositions and the trio’s uncanny musical camaraderie. DownBeat gave the recording four stars, calling it “a beautifully constructed album” and noting “the drive and lyricism of a pianist and composer at home in bebop, gospel, pop, and classical.” JazzTimes also reviewed the album favorably, praising Miwa’s “jaw-dropping degree of technique.” The album enjoyed seven weeks in the top 10 on Jazz Week’s charts, much like its predecessor, Miwa’s 2017 release Pathways, which also made Jazz Week’s top 10 for several weeks. In a 2017 feature article on Miwa, DownBeat noted her “impressive technique and a tuneful lyricism that combines an Oscar Peterson-ish hard swing with Bill Evans-like introspection.”
For more than a decade Miwa’s trio has played regularly at major jazz clubs in their home city of Boston, as well as venues around the world. A favorite of Jazz at Lincoln Center, Miwa was chosen to play on “Marian McPartland & Friends,” part of the Coca-Cola Generations in Jazz Festival. She was also chosen to perform at Lincoln Center’s annual Jazz and Leadership Workshop for The National Urban League’s Youth Summit. Miwa also appears regularly at New York’s famed Blue Note Jazz Club as well as Birdland and has performed and/or recorded with a wide range of jazz greats including Sheila Jordan, Slide Hampton, Arturo Sandoval, George Garzone, Jon Faddis, Jerry Bergonzi, Esperanza Spalding, Terri Lyne Carrington, Kevin Mahogany, John Lockwood, Dominique Eade, and Johnathan Blake among others. In 2018 she performed on the main stage at the Atlanta Jazz Festival and the Litchfield Jazz Festival, where her trio drew the largest audience of any act. She is a Yamaha Pianos Artist, JVC Victor Entertainment and Ubuntu Music recording artist, 10X nominated and 2019 Winner in the Boston Music Awards as Jazz Artist of the Year, and Boston Phoenix Best Music Poll winner.
Miwa’s story of becoming a jazz musician is full of serendipity and happy twists of fate. In the late 1990s the classically-trained artist auditioned for Berklee College of Music on a lark and ended up winning a full scholarship. She arrived at the school from her homeland of Japan in 1997, intending to stay for a year. In 2022, she’s still in Boston, enriching the city’s musical life and serving as one of the most popular professors in the Berklee piano department.
Act Naturally, the Yoko Miwa Trio’s major label debut in Japan, came out in 2012 on the JVC Victor Entertainment label and the band toured Japan that same year. “She is one of the best jazz pianists in Japan,” said Yozo Iwanami, Jazz Hihyo Magazine.
A native of Kobe, Japan, Miwa didn’t pursue an interest in jazz until she met and studied with Minoru Ozone, a popular television organist and nightclub owner who is the father of pianist Makoto Ozone. Miwa worked at Ozone’s club and as an accompanist and piano instructor at his music school until the great Kobe earthquake of 1995 destroyed both facilities. Then, while continuing to take private lessons from Minoru Ozone, she also pursued musical studies at the Koyo Conservatory in Kobe. From there she won first prize in a scholarship competition to attend Berklee. Miwa quickly began playing with a host of talented students and teachers, and she formed a strong bond with vocal great Kevin Mahogany, who chose the pianist to serve as accompanist in his classes and on his gigs.
Miwa has released nine highly acclaimed CDs: In the Mist of Time (Tokuma, 2000); Fadeless Flower (Polystar, 2002); Canopy of Stars (Polystar, 2004); The Day We Said Goodbye, recorded live at the studios of WGBH-FM (Sunshine Digital, 2006); Live at Scullers (Jazz Cat Amnesty, 2011); Act Naturally (JVC Victor Entertainment, 2012), Pathways (2017), Keep Talkin’ (2019), and Songs of Joy (Ubuntu Music, 2021).
Berklee College of Music (faculty profile)