|February 22, 2005
Mike Stepanovich, 661/664-2456 or
Toshiko Akiyoshi, the 14-time Grammy nominee and winner of “Best Composer/Arranger” in Down Beat Magazine’s jazz polls, will be the featured artist in California State University, Bakersfield’s next Legends of Jazz concert on Friday, March 4, at 8 p.m.
The concert will feature Akiyoshi conducting the CSUB Big Band performing 10 of her compositions. Preceding the concert, she will present a free clinic on her life and music at 4 p.m., also in the Doré Theatre.
Tickets to this Legends of Jazz concert are $15 general admission and $10 for students and 60+ seniors.
Born and raised in Manchuria, Akiyoshi started piano lessons at age 6. Ten years later her family moved to Japan, where she first heard and began playing jazz. Soon she opted not to attend medical school as her parents wished, instead moving to Tokyo, where her mastery of Bud Powell's bebop style earned her steady work with the city's best bands.
In 1952 Akiyoshi formed her own group. A year later during a tour of Japan, pianist Oscar Peterson heard her play and recommended her to Norman Granz, who gave her the chance to make her first recordings with such jazz greats as Herb Ellis and Ray Brown. Not long after, Akiyoshi accepted a full scholarship to the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Soon she was playing regularly at George Wein's Storyville Club and recording for his label with Roy Haynes, Ed Thigpen, Paul Chambers and Oscar Pettiford. In 1956 Wein presented her at his Newport Jazz Festival. As a first-class pianist she had, as they say, arrived.
Her interest in composing and arranging came to fruition when she moved to Los Angeles in 1972 with her husband, saxophonist/flutist Lew Tabackin. The following year they formed the world-renowned big band that is now known as the Toshiko Akiyoshi Jazz Orchestra featuring Lew Tabackin. The band, which began as a vehicle for Akiyoshi's own compositions, grew in stature during its 10 years on the West Coast, and gained a reputation as one of the most excellent and innovative big bands in jazz.
In 1976, the band placed first in the Down Beat Critics' Poll, and her album, “Long Yellow Road,” was named best jazz album of the year by Stereo Review. The late Leonard Feather, jazz critic and author, summed up the brilliance of Toshiko Akiyoshi big band in his review of that album: " ... greatness is greatness, whether on the East Coast, the West Coast, in Tokyo or anywhere else in the world. I think you will find it in this magnificently variegated, consistently exciting example of one of the outstanding orchestras of our time." In 1977 the recording “Insights” was named as record of the year by Down Beat magazine.
Akiyoshi has recorded 18 albums with the Jazz Orchestra. Her recording “Four Seasons of the Morita Village” was awarded the 1996 Swing Journal Silver Award. Akiyoshi's big band albums have received 14 Grammy Award nominations since 1976. The band was also voted No. 1 in Down Beat magazine's Best Big Band category, and Akiyoshi has placed first in the Best Arranger and Composer category in the Down Beat Readers' Poll, making her the first woman in the history of jazz to have been so honored.
For more information, please call the CSUB music department at (661) 664-3093.