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Akiko Tsuruga

She’s “Sweet and Funky,” she’s “Cute and Bad”. A Composer. A Performer extraordinaire. The legendary Dr. Lonnie Smith describes her this way: “Akiko's playing is like watching a flower blooming, a bird spreading her wings in the music world. Akiko is here to stay. ” Raised in Osaka, Japan, this talented musician began studying the organ at the age of three, at the famed Yamaha Music School. After discovering her passion for jazz very early on in her musical journey, Akiko launched her career immediately after graduating from the Osaka College of Music. While living and playing in Osaka, she had many opportunities to perform with world-renowned jazz musicians from the United States. Meeting Grady Tate, in particular, was a life-changing event for Akiko. ‘

After landing in the mecca for jazz, New York City, it didn’t take long for Akiko to make her mark - It was during these early years that she had the great pleasure of sitting in, playing gigs, and eventually recording with jazz greats such as Frank Wess, Jimmy Cobb, Grady Tate and other top NY musicians. Her reputation ultimately drew attention of Lou Donaldson as he chose her in 2006 as his quartet’s organist.

But it was the meeting of organ legend Dr. Lonnie Smith that proved to have the greatest impact on Akiko’s musical development and career. He became an important mentor to Akiko, and she considers him her greatest influence. She flourished and continued to be a constant draw on the NY jazz scene.

Akiko has ten albums as a leader to her credit. Her debut album in the U.S., “Sweet and Funky” ,was selected as a “Best album of 2007” in DOWNBEAT Magazine. Akiko has been a regular in the DOWNBEAT polls since 2008 - culminating this year with the 65th Annual Critics Poll, coming in at #2 in the “Rising Star - Organ” category. Hot House Magazine has just named her 'Best Organ" in the 2017 Readers Poll. Her albums have constantly placed in the top ten on the National Radio Jazz Chart.

Akiko’s newest excitement is a trio project features a jazz celebrity drummer, Jeff Hamilton and a superb rising guitarist, Graham Dechter, and their first recording, “Equal Time” will be released in June 2019. This thrilling trio will be performing 2 nights at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola in May 2019.

Just take a listen to this dynamic performer, and I’m sure you will agree with the legendary Dr.

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Queen of the Organ - Lou Donaldson

Akiko's playing is like watching a flower blooming, a bird spreading her wings in the music world. - Dr. Lonnie Smith

"Akiko plays her personality...intense, positive, energetic and joyous. She plays to make others sound as good as they possibly can. It is always a joy to share the stage with her and play off of each other's energy." I look forward to many more great musical experiences from her AND with her!" - Jeff Hamilton

Akiko Tsuruga ranks as one of the top organists around today. - Scott Yanow, All Music Guide

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Album Discography

Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

Lioness: Pride and Joy

Posi-Tone Records


So Cute, So Bad

Self Produced


Oriental Express

18th and Vine


Sweet and Funky

18th & Vine




Jimmy Smith
organ, Hammond B3
Dr. Lonnie Smith
organ, Hammond B3
Jack McDuff
organ, Hammond B3
James Spaulding
saxophone, alto
KJ Denhert
guitar, acoustic
Bill Heid
organ, Hammond B3
Dave Braham
organ, Hammond B3

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