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Seattle Times - A Triple-Threat Treasure: Pianist, Singer and Composer Toshiko Akiyoshi

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As a Japanese woman and bandleader, Toshiko Akiyoshi was obliged to be a pioneer of one kind or another. In her day, women in jazz were singers and little more, and they certainly were not Japanese.

From the culture she was born to and the one she adopted, she gathered proverbs that even today she finds useful to remember.

“The Japanese have a saying, ‘The nail that sticks out will be beaten down,’ ” said Akiyoshi, who is in Seattle this weekend for a series of concerts and a lecture. “And here they say, ‘If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.’ ”

What Akiyoshi, now 79, accomplished seems unlikely for a woman raised in Japanese-occupied Manchuria, who came to jazz during the American occupation of Japan. As she puts it, she has been “demographically challenged.” She was turned on to jazz by a Teddy Wilson record and got a job playing piano in a dance hall for American officers.

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