Onishi, Junko

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Onishi, Junko

Onishi, Junko, Japanese pianist; b. Kyoto, Japan, April 16, 1967. She grew up in Tokyo and began playing piano at age four. After graduating from high school in 1986, she moved to Boston to attend Berklee Coll., where she interacted with Delfeayo Marsalis, Roy Hargrove, and Ryan Kisor (among others) in jam sessions. Her first professional gig came in 1988 when she went on tour to France in Slide Hampton’s band. The following year she graduated first in her class from Berklee and moved to N.Y., where she played in the Jesse Davis Quintet, the house band at Augie’s. She returned to Japan with that group, and played with small groups led by Gary Thomas, Joe Henderson, and Kenny Garrett. She has also worked with Terence Blanchard, Greg Osby, Mingus Dynasty, and the Mingus Big Band. In 1992 she moved back to Japan and formed the trio heard on her first album, WOW, with classmates from her Berklee days. Blue Note began licensing her albums for U.S. release after she began using American rhythm sections, and she also made an album with Jackie McLean in 1996.


Cruisin’ (1993); WOW (1993); Live at the Village Vanguard (1994); Live at the Village Vanguard II (1994); Piano Quintet Suite (1995); Hat Trick (1996).

—Steve Holtje