This brand new release from pianist/composer/arranger Mari Watanabe is titled Old Friends.But this recording is coming from a talented young lady who first graced the Crescent City scene 20 years ago. She is from Tokyo,Japan and has been hungry for knowledge of the indigenous music of New orleans ever since her arraival.--------Mari has also worked with the legendary Danny Barker,Harold Dejan,Dr.Michael White,Walter Payton,Tuba Fats and Leroy Jones------
----- liner notes by Leroy Jones( Harry Connick Jr.'s Trumpet player)
Mari Watanabe is a Japanese transplant celebrating her twentieth year in New Orleans. In that time she seems to have caught onto the roots of New Orleans music quite nicely. Her mastery of the piano blends very well with the brass band sounds of her backup group. Four of the 13 tracks are originals; the others are covers of such classics as “St. Louis Blues,” and “Sweet Georgia Brown.” There’s even a new arrangement of the late Anthony “Tuba Fats” Lacen’s “Here Comes Tuba Fats,” as well as several solo tracks by Watanabe. The piano work is steady, tightly paced and first rate throughout. Particularly outstanding are the solos by Ernest “Doc” Watson on tenor, William Smith on trumpet and Jeffrey Hills on sousaphone. Watson’s son Curtis, weighing in with the vocals on the gospel classic, “His Eye is On the Sparrow,” is a real treat for the ears, exhibiting great range and voice control.
-----Review from OffBeat Magazine,New Orleans