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Junko Onishi: Time To Reflect

After years out of the spotlight, pianist Junko Onishi returns with a bracing new album and a Mingus-sized band

Junko Onishi (photo by Mika Ninagawa)

Even when their careers are in full swing, some musicians need to recoil. That’s what happened to pianist Junko Onishi, who released a well-received string of discs on Blue Note in the mid-1990s. Toward the end of that decade, however, Onishi decided she needed to take a step back and woodshed.

Some of her inspiration to reflect and reassess came from the legendary pianist Jaki Byard, who mentored Onishi during the last year of his life. “I was only a 30-something Japanese girl then,” recalls Onishi, who is now 43. “There were so many things that I really needed to learn. [Byard] kind of gave me the answer, which was for me to shed deeply.”

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