Akiko Tsuruga
Jazz Organist

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.”

 

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 and will be touring Europe in September 2019.

Just take a listen to this dynamic performer, and I’m sure you will agree with the legendary Dr. Lonnie Smith - “Akiko is here to stay!”

Past performances:

International

Eupope

Marian’s Jazz Room (Switzerland) Duc des Lombards (France) Ronnie Scotts (England) Café Central Jazz Club, Jamboree Club, San Javier Jazz Festival, Cislands Jazz Festival (Spain) Jazzkeller Club (Germany) Jazz Club Ferrara (Italy) Gouvy Jazz Festival,(Belgium)

 

Asia

Japan:

Tokyo Jazz Festival, Blue Note, Tokyo, Nagoya Blue Note, Billboard Live Osaka
 

Java Jazz Festival (Indonesia) 

 

Canada:

Frankie's Jazz

 

 

 

U.S.A

Jazz Clubs

Village Vanguard, Blue Note, Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, Birdland, Jazz Standard, Smoke Jazz Club, Smalls, Showman’s (New York)

Jazz Showcase, The Green Mill(Chicago)Dakota (Minneapolis) Yoshi’s(San Francisco)Jazz Bakery, Blue Whale,Vitello’s (Los Angels) Scaller’s (Boston) Nocturn(Denver) Jazz At Bistro (St. Louis) Nighttown (Cleveland )

 

Jazz Festivals:

Monterey Jazz Festival, Stanford Jazz Festival, Newport Beach Jazz Party, (CA) Atlanta Jazz Festival (Georgia) JVC Jazz Festival, Rochester Jazz Festival, Pine Grill Jazz Reunion Jazz Festival (New York) Portland Jazz Festival (Oregon) Vail Jazz Festival (Colorado), Tri-C Jazz Festival (Ohio)

 

Others:

Carnegie Hall (New York) Kennedy Center (Washington D.C) Smith Center (Las Vegas)

 

Musicians:

Saxophone: Lou Donaldson, Frank Wess, Houston Person, Scott Hamilton, Ralph Lalama, Harry Allen, Jerry Weldon, Eric Alexander,

Drums: Grady Tate, Jimmy Cobb, Jeff Hamilton, Bernard “Pretty” Purdie, Louis Hays, Lewis Nash, Carl Allen, Akira Tana, Joe Farnthworth,

Trumpet: Joe Magnarelli,

Guiter: John Hart, Graham Dechter,

 

Awards:

- Swing Journal Magazine (Japan) 2007 new star award

- Downbeat Magazine 2017 Critics Poll, Rising star Organ, #2

- Hot House Magazine 2017 Best Organist.

 

                 

 

 

 

"Queen of the Organ"  

         - LOU DONALDSON,  NEA JAZZ MASTER & LEGENDARY ALTO SAXOPHONIST

 

 

 

Akiko's playing is like watching a flower blooming, a bird spreading her wings in the music world. Akiko is here to stay. Making Japan proud after just a few short years in the USA!

        - DR. LONNIE SMITH, NEA JAZZ MASTER & LEGENDARY ORGANIST

 

 

 

"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, LEGENDARY JAZZ DRUMMER

 

 

Akiko Tsuruga ranks as one of the top organists around today.
     
  - SCOTT YANOW, ALL MUSIC GUIDE

 

 

She's the real deal.

        - JAZZ  TIMES