Oriental Express

Akiko Tsuruga

(CD - Clay Pasternack #17722)

Review by Ken Dryden

With her third release as a leader, Japanese-born jazz organist Akiko Tsuruga demonstrates her growth as a player, having distilled the essence of many of the giants of the instrument, including Jimmy Smith, Charles Earland, Mel Rhyne, Brother Jack McDuff, and others. One of relatively few women who has gained exposure playing jazz organ, Tsuruga shows a surprising maturity at the instrument, using a wide variety of dynamics, while her adventurous spirit shows in her improvising and choice of rhythms. Two of her sidemen on these sessions, tenor saxophonist Jerry Weldon and drummer Rudy Perschauer, were members of McDuff's final band and their presence no doubt stimulated the young organist. Also making important contributions are guitarist Eric Johnson and percussionist Wilson Chembo Corniel, both of whom appeared on her previous 18th & Vine CD Sweet and Funky. Her breezy setting of "The Frim Fram Sauce" (a hit for pianist Nat King Cole during the '40s) and funky Latin setting of Lee Morgan's "Sidewinder" are obvious highlights. She's equally adept handling standards like "Teach Me Tonight" and Henry Mancini' lush ballad "Dreamsville," both of which prominently feature Johnson. With this outstanding effort, Akiko Tsuruga is easily one of the fast rising stars on jazz organ.