Toshiko Akiyoshi

Toshiko's Piano

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Toshiko Akiyoshi was only 23 years old when Oscar Peterson heard her during a Jazz at the Philharmonic tour of Japan in 1953; he immediately went raving to impresario Norman Granz to implore him to record her. So Granz produced Akiyoshi's debut as a leader on a 10" disc (released as Amazing Toshiko Akiyoshi in Japan and as Toshiko's Piano elsewhere) with the Jazz at the Philharmonic rhythm section (guitarist Herb Ellis, bassist Ray Brown, and drummer J.C. Heard). The Bud Powell influence is rather obvious during several of the tracks, as Akiyoshi slashes her way through "What Is This Thing Called Love?," "I Want to Be Happy," the lesser-known "Shadrach," and a very brisk treatment of Johnny Hodges' "Squatty Roo." She also shows promise at more relaxed tempos, playing standards such as "Gone With the Wind" and a dreamy, somewhat impressionistic piano solo of "Laura." Rounding out the set are two originals, the lightly swinging "Toshiko's Blues" and slightly exotic "Solidado." Because it is likely that the master tapes to this session were misfiled or lost, it remained out of print until a Japanese collector provided a copy of the original disc as source material for this 24-bit Japanese CD reissue. This formidable debut was the start of a long and successful career, so Oscar Peterson deserves as much thanks as Norman Granz for introducing the jazz world at large to this phenomenal pianist, Toshiko Akiyoshi. The only thing that may cause some buyers to hesitate to purchase this disc is the relatively high price for a playing time of under 24 minutes.

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