With the release of her 1993 Blue Note debut Cruisin', pianist Junko Onishi arrived as one of the most promising of Japan-born jazz musicians. Growing up in Tokyo, Onishi received classical piano lessons but became quite interested in jazz. She studied at Berklee and after three years moved to New York. Already a well-developed player, Onishi worked with Joe Henderson, Betty Carter, Kenny Garrett, and Mingus Dynasty before recording her debut as a leader. She considers her style to be based on Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, and Ornette Coleman; her other recordings from the '90s include 1994's Live at the Village Vanguard, 1995's Piano Quintet Suite, and 1999's Fragile. After Fragile, Onishi took a break from releasing albums to focus on developing her music. She returned over ten years later with 2009's Musical Moments. She followed that up a year later with her 2010 Verve debut, Baroque, which featured several Onishi originals as well as interpretations of some 20th century classical pieces. Tea Times is her new album, recorded and released in 2016 on Japanese Village Records label.
Junko Onishi has long been one of the most popular pianists in Tokyo. Her years backing famed jazz masters in the States along with her vibrant attitude to the music have earned her respect and fans. This new release comes nearly a decade after her last one, 1999’s rock groove outing “Fragile.” This recording is entirely different from that one, with several self-penned numbers, three Eric Dolphy tunes and three standards. Recorded in New York, except for a live medley at Tokyo Blue Note, it is a vital new work that finds Onishi’s forceful playing unbridled. The result is much more of her as the accomplished and powerful musician she truly is.