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Piano Nightly

About this Album

Singer/songwriter/pianist Akiko Yano, whose distinctive vocal style and unique blending of jazz and pop music has gained her an international following, released Piano Nightly , her third Nonesuch album, in May of 1996

“Yano is a world class songwriter with a clear, gentle, wide-ranging voice. She is also an accomplished, endearing performer who might be a Japanese colleague of Carole King, Joni Mitchell and Meredith Monk,” said Jon Pareles of The New York Times.

On Piano Nightly, Yano offers that same kind of intimate, confessional songwriting, inflected with a delicate Orientalism. In addition to her own songs, one a collaboration with guitarist Pat Metheny, the album’s 15 selections include several covers of well-known Japanese ballads from the past 20 years, as well as a lyrical reworking of the Young Rascals’ popular hit “How Can I Be Sure.” Featuring only her singing and piano, Piano Nightly showcases Yano’s varied musical influences.

Yano has long been at the forefront of Japan’s musical life, producing and recording albums, touring throughout the country and collaborating with artists ranging from the English band Japan to traditional Japanese drummers. Her world tours with the Yellow Magic Orchestra in 1979 and 1980 brought her international attention and spawned a collaboration with keyboard player Ryuichi Sakamoto.

She made her Nonesuch debut in 1991 with a self-titled album that LA Weekly described as music which “expands and contracts, coos and rocks, bustles and blooms, and Yano’s singing becomes so glued into her own spiritualized presentation of change that she stops sounding as though she’s performing in Japanese.” Love Life, Yano’s second Nonesuch release, draws its appeal from her unique musical orientations: jazz piano, classical singing, Japanese atmospheric elements and pop instrumentation. Metheny, bassist Charlie Haden, and Sakamoto on synthesizers, joined her on the album, which combines exceptional musicianship, vocals and electronic music.

Born in Tokyo in 1955, by her mid-teens Yano was already playing piano in jazz clubs, and at age 18 had made a name for herself on the Tokyo studio players circuit. Her recording debut came in 1976 with Japanese Girl. Unique in its fusion of traditional Japanese elements with a basic rock lineup, most of the instrumental support came from the American band Little Feat, arguably at the height of their popularity. Twenty years and nearly 20 albums later, the veteran of Japan’s popular music scene now lives in New York, where she continues to write, record and perform at venues such as the Blue Note and The Kitchen.

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