This is the debut album of a Japanese pianist Katsuko Tanaka. In less than two years after moving to New York, she put her original jazz compositions together with Danton Boller, Willie Jones III, and Antonio Hart.
When playing in New York, Katsuko is often asked When and How did you start playing jazz? Where are you originally from, and how long have you been here in NYC?" Here is the answer:
I was a Rotary International Foundation Ambassador to experience the American culture and a classical music program in the nineties. I chose California as a place to reside and met Danton, who was pursing studies in jazz music. The direction of my life turned as I went together with him to see his gigs. I remember in particular the excitement we felt whenever Willie was at the drums. The spiritual energy Willie generates in every performance changed me: I intuitively knew, This (improvisational music) is THE kind of music I want to play!" I began transcribing the music from the recordings that Danton lent me. Shortly thereafter I started writing with a limited theoretical knowledge because people emphasized that jazz is an ongoing art form so that I must compose to find my own creative voice. Come to think of it, I learn jazz theory the most from writing. After receiving a BA in Classical Piano Performance, I went back to Japan. In my native city Osaka, I wrote Stretching" inspired by the energy and edge the New York lifestyle carries.
Truly understanding jazz, however, requires a life long effort. Similar to a second language, it needs more conscientiousness for a native Japanese who started listening to it late in one's life. Thus, I moved to New York in 2008. Fortunately, I've been learning it by performing with the musicians who have had the tradition passed down to them by the masters. Wheatland" and After the Morning" are my humble attempts to honor the memory of great jazz pianists Oscar Peterson and John Hicks. Most of all, I feel very fortune that a life has been breathed into each of my original songs on this album with the collaboration of musically most important people in my life. As I resided different cities (Osaka, Tokyo, Los Angeles, and New York), I had to detach my close people from my daily life many times. My best friend told me that a life is like a path: we meet each other as paths cross. So, here I am expressing an intersection as the time we meet and share in our lives with my hope - all the paths be prosperous in their own best way. I think if we are lucky, maybe sometime in the future those paths cross again. Danton and Willie are my old friends from California. I recently met Antonio at the school where I finished my Master course in New York. Thus, this team performance exactly represents the fortune of my life, and concludes the first phase of my life as a jazz pianist.
Further, New York life expands my interests and reshapes my musical perspectives. My performance experiences prove people click through music despite time, nationality, gender, or generation."
- February 2010 in New York, Katsuko Tanaka