domingo, 24 de octubre de 2010
Artist of the Week: Ayako Shirasaki
Artist of the Week: Ayako Shirasaki
Recognized in her native Japan as a jazz prodigy (in the 5th grade she was already transcribing Bud Powell solos), Ayako Shirasaki while yet a pre-teen won many prizes including the Grand Prize at the Asakusa Jazz Competition. Her professional career began at the tender age of twelve when she began regular appearances at the “J” jazz club in Tokyo. Her extraordinary talent was soon recognized, and she was featured in Swing Journal.
Extremely versatile, Ayako majored in classical music at Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music and performed as a classical pianist for several years after graduation. But the love of the jazz idiom instilled by her father from the age of five won out, and Ayako soon returned to her first love, winning in 1995 second prize in the prestigious First Annual Heineken Jazz Competition.
In 1997 Ayako moved to New York City where she currently resides. Her talent won her a scholarship in the masters program at the Manhattan School of Music where she studied performance with such noted teachers as Kenny Barron and Ted Rosenthal and composition with Mike Abene.
Ayako is fast making a name for herself as one of the most exciting and inventive pianists on the New York jazz scene. She has been heard at the Blue Note, The Kitano, Birdland, Cobi’s Place, Dizzy’s Club, Sugar Hill Bistro, Swing 46, Copeland’s, Cleopatra’s Needle, and Kavehaz. Her unique style and strong rhythmic sense have made her much in demand. She has played with Lewis Nash, Kalil Madi, John Benitez, Steve Kirby, Kengo Nakamura, Kenny Garrett, Clarence Penn, Kit McLure and Harold Ousley.
Ayako released two self-produced CDs in 2002, “Live in New York” with her trio and “The Duo Live” with vibraphonist Tim Collins. In August 2003, her major debut CD “Existence” (Lewis Nash on drums, Marco Panascia on bass) was released in Japan. Her second major CD “Musically Yours” was released in June, 2005. In April 2006, Ayako’s long-waited solo piano album “Home Alone” was released. Additionally she has been featured on Marian McPartlands “An NPR Jazz Christmas with Marian McPartland and Friends, Vol. 3″ and recently on “Best of 1st International Jazz Solo Piano Festival 2009″.
“Ayako Shirasaki is a devoted, virtuosic, daring and expressive pianist.” - Howard Mandel, president of the Jazz Journalists Association and senior contributor DOWNBEAT Magazine, September 2009
“Ayako is an extremely gifted musician. She is blessed with great technique, a fertile and creative imagination, a firm understanding of the jazz tradition and a real love for the music. I recommend Ayako without reservation.” - Pianist, Kenny Barron
“She is one amazing musician, and an incredible pianist and composer. One of the greatest pianists I’ve ever heard! Don’t dare miss her. Ayako has everything that makes a musician great.” - Pianist, Jessica Williams
“Jazz improvisation at the highest level.” - Jazzthetik, German Jazz Magazine, April 2009
“Shirasaki is a virtuoso whose technique ranges from a tender touch like the late Tommy Flanagan, and brisk runs like Bud Powell, but with a brilliant creativity all her own.” - Greg Thomas, Chief editor, Harlem World Magazine
“She’s awfully good: rhapsodic when the material demands but still quite capable of swinging with Powellish drive.” - Paul Blair, Hot House Jazz Magazine, November 2007
“Ayako has a very good sense of time and advanced harmonic ideas.” - Ted Rosenthal, Pianist and Thelonious Monk Competition Winner
“Ya’ know, the good thing about this girl is that she really can swing!!” - Dr. Buster Brown , Tap Dancer
“Ayako, you are the very best!” - Cobi Narita, Music promoter
COMPETITIONS & SPECIAL EVENTS:
- Performance at Jazz Journalists Association Awards Gala 2010, New York (video)
- 1st International Jazz Solo Piano Festival 2009, Germany, Berlin, Munich, Hamburg
- Guest on Marian McPartland’s radio show “Piano Jazz” 2006; National Public Radio
- Finalist in the Mary Lou Williams Women In Jazz Piano Competition 2005 and 2006; Washington, D.C., USA
- Finalist in the Great American Jazz Piano Competition 2004, 2005 and 2006; Jacksonville, Fl., USA
- Member of the 2003 Jazz Aspen Snowmass Emerging Artist Program; Aspen, Co., USA
- Second prize in the First Annual Heineken Jazz Competition 1995
- Grand Prize at the Asakusa Jazz Competition; Asakusa, Japan
Ayako is equally comfortable entertaining jazz piano audiences in a solo setting or as leader of a larger ensemble. Ayako attributes her ability to excel in both settings due to her command of numerous musical genres and her ability to provide a strong time feel, as if her left hand assumes the role of a seasoned bassist or percussionist. Ayako`s ability to collaborate across a wide range ofmusical settings is evidenced in recent duo performances with tap dancers, vibraphonists and horn players. Influential musicians cited by Ayako include Bill Evans, Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk and Billy Strayhorn. Ayako has performed tribute concerts in honor of several of these jazz legends and plans on performing more in the future.