Pianist Toshiko Akiyoshi overcame numerous challenges during her long career, immigrating to a new country, establishing herself as both a top bandleader and composer/arranger, in addition to the difficulties of maintaining a large jazz ensemble. Her husband, tenor saxophonist and flutist Lew Tabackin, was a star soloist in her big band and he helped her recruit top musicians when she formed the band in 1973. Akiyoshi recorded numerous albums until disbanding the group in 2003, though many of these excellent recordings have unjustly lapsed from print. Fortunately, Mosaic licensed five of her big band's RCA albums from ...read more
Toshiko Akiyoshi & Lew Tabackin Toshiko Akiyoshi - Lew Tabackin Big Band: Mosaic Select Mosaic Records 2008
Jazz was never more schizophrenic than in the 1970s. On the one hand, musicians equally savvy about mixing genres and running mixing boards were selling out arenas and producing lucrative, widely played albums, with bass-heavy danceable beats or soothing instrumental sounds tailor-made for air play on FM radio. At the other extreme, many of the jazz masters who came up with, or slightly before and after, saxophonist Charlie Parker, trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and pianist Thelonious ...read more
Toshiko Akiyoshi's reputation as a brilliant composer/arranger is widely heralded. She was the first woman to lead a big band for an extended period of time, while she was also the first Japanese jazz artist to achieve international acclaim. A pianist of incredible talent, Akiyoshi's abilities were somewhat hidden within her orchestra, though she made a number of small group and solo recordings, many of them only issued in Japan. She is also very proud of her 2007 NEA Jazz Master Award. Toshiko Akiyoshi was just 23 years old when Oscar Peterson heard her perform in a night ...read more
Composer, bandleader and pianist Toshiko Akiyoshi has tucked yet another significant feather into her cap with Hiroshima. Her new CD was recorded live at the composition's debut performance in its namesake city on August 6th, 2001, the 56th anniversary of that fateful 1945 day.The 15-minute first movement of the emotional three-part suite begins with Futility," a seasonal blowing of reeds and brass. Swirling leaves touch ground then take flight. Flutes and reeds join the brass horns as the tempo of swinging drums escalates in preparation for soloists and the lurking inevitability. Lew Tabackin, the orchestra's prime soloist who ...read more
The marriage of composition and arrangement is not an easy one in modern music. Dedication to history coupled with invention of tomorrow makes the task even more daunting. Toshiko Akiyoshi has been doing just that for the past thirty years with her big band. What is impressive is not the time, but the quality of her efforts. Hope from tragedy, hope from destruction, hope from loss, and hope for tomorrow are themes not easily translated to music. Akiyoshi's latest project should be celebrated because it does justice to hope, something this world seems desperately without. Hope is all we have ...read more
Dedicated to the memory of a city that experienced the unfathomable horrors of war in 1945, Toshiko Akiyoshi’s extended work for big band sizzles. There’s a lesson here for all mankind. In the early movements of her suite, everything’s all right. The band swings with its usual Monday night balance and tips its hat to one soloist after another. Few big bands carry on the tradition as well.
Then comes the tragedy, and everything changes for a while. Music as we know it turns sour and edgy. Akiyoshi employs the services of a Japanese narrator and a ...read more
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