Born in Osaka, Japan, Eri Yamamoto began playing classical piano at age three, and within five years was composing her own pieces. Throughout her education she continued to study piano, as well as viola, voice, and composition, but when she came to the U.S. for the first time in 1995 and by chance saw jazz pianist Tommy Flanagan play, she knew she had found the kind of music she truly wanted to pursue. Later that year she enrolled in the New School's Jazz and Contemporary Music program, although she had never studied anything but classical music before. In 2000, she began playing regularly with a trio at Arthur's Tavern in Greenwich Village. In 2006, her fourth album as a bandleader, Cobalt Blue, with longtime players Dave Ambrosia (bass) and Ikuo Takeuchi (drums) behind her, came out on Thirsty Ear.