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Stunning Originals Featured On Pianist Michika Fukumori's "Piano Images" - Solo Project Produced By Steve Kuhn

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Piano Images is more than simply a collection of excellent originals and interpretations by Michika. It’s an intimate invitation to understand who she is, where she came from, what inspires her and, perhaps most importantly, why we should love her. —Jonathan Widran, JW Vibe
Michika Fukumori
Michika Fukumori, a native of Japan, has been living in New York City since 2000. A soulful pianist, she was drawn to the U.S to study jazz and become involved in the New York jazz scene. Piano Images (Summit Records, June 22, 2018) is her third CD release since coming to States. The CD is a solo project, featuring Fukumori on piano playing mostly stunning original compositions as well as several of her favorite jazz standards.

Fukumori has played in some of the most prestigious jazz clubs in Manhattan with top New York musicians. She has been honing her chops for 20 years and decided it was time to express herself as a solo artist. According to Fukumori, “Piano Images is a conversation between me and the piano. It’s the story of my life that I portray through music. It’s a story about where I was born, my experiences growing up, and what I feel about the state of the world. I wanted to express how happy I am to be able to make music in my little corner of the world.”

Piano Images was produced by Steve Kuhn, the prolific pianist known for his lyrical and evocative playing. Fukumori has been studying privately with Kuhn since 2001. Kuhn also produced Fukumori’s other CDs, Quality Time (2016), and Infinite Thoughts (2004). “I was a big fan of Steve’s since I started to listen, study and play Jazz in Japan,” says Fukumori. “Studying with him is my dream come true. He’s my teacher, my mentor and my musical hero.”

Fukumori composed eight of the 13 tunes on Piano Images. Her compositional style is like her style of playing—sensitive and inventive with a subtle sense of swing. She opens the CD with “Colors of Blue,” one of her own compositions. “I learned how important the blues is to jazz after I moved to this country, and I fell in love with the form. This is my dedication to this music.” Fukumori infuses the tune with a rhythmic feeling that comes from a Japanese dance style. “Into the New World,” another of her originals, is a gentle swing tune with a light- hearted feel. It represents her hope and prayers for the world.

“The Seasons” is a suite of four compositions in which Fukumori paints a picture of of Iga, her hometown in Japan. Iga is a small city surrounded by mountains where Fukumori lived until she was 18. These pieces were drawn from memories of her childhood. The first of the suite is “The Answer,” which represents winter

and a feeling of anticipation. “The Story I Want to Tell You” represents spring. Fukumori recorded this piece on her previous CD in a trio setting, but because the song for her has such a strong association with Iga, she wanted to record it again in a more intimate context. “The Days We Were Smiling” represents her nostalgia for all the fun she had in summer growing up, hiking, swimming, fireworks and especially family gatherings. “Tomorrow is Full of Promises,” is a happy, lively tune that represents autumn and Matsuri, a kind of lively Thanksgiving festivity.

Fukumori also composed “Palco (A Little Dancer)” and “My Muse.” “Palco” has a buoyant dance feel that represents Fukumori’s impression of the movie “Billy Elliot,” the 2000 film about a boy who wants to become a professional ballet dancer. “My Muse” is Fukumori’s dedication to Steve Kuhn and represents the joy that music gives her.

Fukumori is also a fan of Jobim and dedicates “Chovendo na Roseira” to the great Brazilian artist. Fukumori imbues the song with “suadade,” or a deep state of melancholy. She also performs Jobim’s “Luiza,” another piece filled with longing. Richard Rodgers’ “Where or When” is one of her favorite tunes that she’s been playing since before she came to this country, and “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye” is the Cole Porter number that appeals to Fukumori’s romantic, sensitive nature. And in honor of her mentor, Steve Kuhn, Fukumori decided to include one of his original compositions, “Oceans in the Sky,” on which Fukumori and Kuhn perform a lush, four-hand version.

Fukumori is a superbly sensitive pianist who has fully embraced the jazz idiom but suffuses the music with her own personality and cultural heritage. Piano Images is a series of musical portraits by an artist with a refined sensibility and the skill to embrace you with her musical vision.

About Michika Fukumori

Born on Japan's main island, Fukumori grew up in the city of Mie and began to play piano at the age of three. After studying classical composition at the Aichi Prefectual University of Fine Arts and Music, Fukumori studied with renowned Japanese pianist Colgen Suzuki and began working professionally at a variety of jazz clubs in and around Tokyo. In 2000, Fukumori moved to the United States and began studying with Ron Carter and Geri Allen at City College of New York, earning her Master’s Degree in 2003. While attending CCNY, she also began taking private lessons with Steve Kuhn. Since then, Fukumori has been playing regularly at many of Manhattan's most prestigious jazz clubs, such as The Blue Note, The Garage, Cleopatra's Needle, Arturo's, Antique Garage, and Jazz at Kitano.

Today Fukumori enjoys a variety of work in the U.S. and takes annual trips back to Japan where she tours extensively, leading various trios and quartets.

Piano Images will be available at Amazon, iTunes.

This story appears courtesy of Mouthpiece Music.
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