Kaoru Watanabe draws on Japanese musical traditions — particularly taiko drumming and shinobue flutes — for his compositions. His most recent record Néo, released in 2016, is dramatic, with odd-time percussion, haunting vocal harmonies and free-floating flute improvisations. Fans of the music of Japanese noh dramas, festival music and atmospheric movie soundtracks will take interest in Watanabe’s work.
Watanabe grew up in St. Louis with parents who played in the symphony. He has a background in jazz saxophone and flute. After graduating from the Manhattan School of Music he moved to Japan to study traditional Japanese music. Following years touring with one of the world’s leading taiko ensembles from Japan, Watanabe opened a center devoted to the music in New York City. Watanabe embraces the idea that this music and the tradition is about respect, community and communication. With his background in Western music, Watanabe brings a fresh take on tradition to the world of Japanese music.
Kaoru Watanabe’s music can be both meditative and exhilarating and sometimes surprisingly funky.
Kaoru Watanabe plays as part of the Portrait of an Instrument: Drum series at Real Art Ways, 56 Arbor St., Hartford, on Saturday, March 17, at 7:30 p.m. $20. 860-232-1006 and realartways.org.