Kazumi Watanabe: Guitar Master from Japan

Written By Sonny Akbar Sembada

Hi, my name is Sonny Akbar Sembada and I welcome you to my blog, The Uncle Jazz. The main topic of my blog is everything related to jazz music.. 

Kazumi Watanabe: Guitar Master from Japan. So, check it out – our guitarist friend got into the whole jazz scene back in his teenage years with the help of Sadanori Nakamure.

Fast forward to 1979, and he’s rocking it in Japan with Steps, the band that later became Steps Ahead. They did this live album called “Smokin’ In The Pit,” where our guy, Kazumi, showed off his killer jazz guitar skills alongside some cool cats like Mike Mainieri, Michael Brecker, Don Grolnick, Eddie Gomez, and Steve Gadd.

Kazumi Watanabe: Guitar Master from Japan

Before all that, Guitar Master from Japan Kazumi had already dropped his debut album “Infinite” in ’71, making a name for himself as a guitar wizard. In ’79, he joined forces with Ryuichi Sakamoto, Akiko Yano, and Shuichi Murakami to create Kylyn, a band that shook up the Japanese musicians scene. Plus, he went on a world tour with the Yellow Magic Orchestra, making a splash internationally.

Then comes the game-changer in ’80 – “Tochika.” This album blew up the Japanese jazz scene, featuring heavyweights like Kenny Kirkland, Marcus Miller, and Peter Erskine. After that, Kazumi’s schedule was all about performing in the U.S. and Asia, jamming with big-shot musicians from all over.

Game-Changing Albums and Neo-Bop Explorations

Jump to the early ’80s, and Kazumi starts Mobo, short for “modern be bop.” People were buzzing about this neo-bop concept, exploring how to bring bebop vibes into the modern age. And oh, you gotta listen to “The Spice Of Life” from ’86 – Kazumi, Bill Bruford, and Jeff Berlin make a trio that’s pure magic.

Awards, Academia, and Musical Innovations

Now, about awards – Guitar Master from Japan Kazumi’s got a shelf full. Grand Prix of Jazz Disc in ’84, Nanri Fumio Award in ’91, and named The Best Jazzman by Swing Journal for 24 years straight. That’s some serious street cred. Plus, he’s organized plenty of musical programs.

In the ’90s, Guitar Master from Japan Kazumi, also a guest professor at Senzoku Gakuen College, dives into acoustic guitar in classical styles, showing off his versatility in major European cities.

Let’s not forget “Pandora” in ’92, where he teams up with Resonance Vox and tabla master Zakir Hussain, blending jazz-rock with ethnic influences. And the dude’s dropped at least 27 solo albums since ’71, always pushing the envelope and keeping fans on their toes.

Continued Excellence and Innovative Projects

Fast forward to the 2000s, Kazumi’s still going strong. In 2001, he celebrates his 30-year music career with “Suite For Guitar,” experimenting with different types of guitars. And there’s a bunch of cool audio-visual stuff too, like “Les Jeux Interdits” and a concert DVD with Richard Bona and Horacio ‘El’ Negro Hernandez in 2005.

This guy’s skills on the guitar are seriously mind-blowing. He’s often rocking it in a trio, taking on a minimal harmony role, and some folks even compare his speed to Al DiMeola. The only thing he doesn’t mess around with too much is playing with different musical colors, but hey, everyone’s got their thing, right?

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