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SADAO WATANABE QUARTET

2019-03-22
Showtime: 10:30PM
Doors Open at 9:45PM

MAKE RESERVATION
BAR TABLE
$30.00 $45.00


Don't miss the chance to see Japanese superstar Sadao Watanabe in a rare U.S. appearance at the Blue Note for one night only!


[ Complete Show Schedule... ]
Sadao Watanabe Quartet

A highly visible and well-regarded musician, Sadao Watanabe has been one of the major influences on jazz in Japan. Since 1969 he has hosted radio programs that introduce his listeners to a range of musical styles. Throughout his 50-year career he has created a substantial collection of music ranging from straightforward bebop to bossa nova. His endorsements for products have made his face as well as his more commercial compositions familiar to the average citizen. He has worked with artists from Africa, Latin America, Europe, and the United States. When playing his saxophone, Watanabe is uniquely identifiable. Gene Kalbacher wrote in Down Beat, "As a saxist, Watanabe's cachet is melody--simple, catchy melody--purveyed by a semi-sweet alto tonality and a fluid delivery. That he retains this signature sound in settings ranging from jazz-rock fusion to bebop, from samba to reggae, from Mozart to Masai tribal music, testifies to his insistence on authenticity."



Once in Tokyo, Watanabe went right to work, forming a band that fused jazz and African music. He sat in on jams where they tried to figure out how to play like the musicians they admired, like Miles Davis and Charlie Parker. After many late night sessions with jazz pianist Toshiko Akiyoshi, Watanabe was asked to join her Cozy Quartet. Watanabe learned about being a musician from Akiyoshi. He told Kalbacher, "She lives for music.... I saw how hard she worked to prepare, and I thought I should practice like her. Through her I learned a lesson about giving all your energy to music." His dedication and practice paid off in 1960, when Akiyoshi accepted a scholarship to attend Boston's Berklee College of Music. In her absence Watanabe became leader of the Cozy Quartet.

By 1962 it was clear that Watanabe had proven himself in the field of jazz. He was constantly playing, improving, and experimenting. Still, he and other jazz musicians of the time were learning by trial and error. There were no schools for jazz and the only way to improve was in the jam sessions held nightly throughout Tokyo. Watanabe spent his time not only playing saxophone but also studying classical flute with Ririko Hayashi, lead flutist with the Tokyo Philharmonic. Upon her return, Akiyoshi recommended Watanabe for a scholarship to attend Berklee.



Watanabe made his first trip to the United States with little more than his saxophone, some clothes, and a pillow. For three years he studied at Berklee. At nights he played gigs in bars around Boston. Within a year he had earned enough money to bring his wife and daughter over from Japan to live with him. Watanabe remembers this as one of the most exciting times for him. He felt that Boston was a great place for musicians and he learned as much from playing gigs as he did from taking classes.

In 1965 Watanabe graduated from Berklee. Because he played flute he was recommended to Chico Hamilton and Gary McFarland to play in their samba band. This experience was Watanabe's first exposure to Brazilian music. At first he was bored by the soft samba sound that he was playing, but through the band he was introduced to other Brazilian musicians. The exposure opened up a whole new aspect of music for him, as he explained to Heckman: "When I heard Brazilian music and African music and different approaches to jazz, I realized that what really matters is feeling. The best music is the music that comes from life."

Watanabe returned to Japan in 1966. Not much had changed in the world of jazz. The musicians were still trying to mimic the sounds they heard on records. With his knowledge from Berklee, Watanabe became an important source of information. Knowing that he needed to do something, he opened up a small jazz school in his hometown of Utsunomiya. He also continued to play, forming his own quartet.

By 1968 Watanabe had begun a schedule of touring and recording that has been ongoing for more than 30 years. He made his first appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival that year. In 1970 he performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival. By 2001 Watanabe had recorded over 60 albums, including works ranging from his early bebop days to his collaborations with a variety of regional stars like the Jimbo Trio from Brazil, Robbie Shakespeare from Jamaica, and Dave Grusin from Manha

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131 W. 3rd St
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