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Aki Takase

Japanese pianist and composer Aki Takase is among the most versatile figures in contemporary jazz. Following her emergence in the 1970s, Takase performed with such forward-thinking artists as Lester Bowie, Berlin Contemporary Jazz Orchestra, John Zorn, and many more, including dates with her husband, pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach. Her debut album, As Time Goes By, appeared to acclaim in 1979. Further, she is celebrated for standout solo outings like 1990's Shima Shoka, 2001's Le Cahier Du Bal, 2006's Plays Fats Waller, and 2019's Hokusai. Her ensembles and recorded collaborations include 2012's New Blues, 2014's So Long, Eric!: Homage to Eric Dolphy, 2017's Cherry [Sakura] with David Murray, and 2019's Kasumi with Ingrid Laubrock. Takase usually releases or plays on several albums per year. After pandemic stoppages, she returned with the trio set Auge and the duo set Isn't It Romantic? with saxophonist Daniel Erdmann. In 2023, Trost released the 2021 recording Four Hands Piano Pieces by Takase and von Schlippenbach. Song for Hope, a 1981 concert recording of her debut at the Berlin Jazz Festival by Enja, was reissued by BBE. Born in Osaka on January 26, 1948, and raised in Tokyo, she received her first piano lesson at the age of three, going on to study at Tohogakuen Music University. Influenced by the work of Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, and Charles Mingus, Takase soon turned to improvisation, and in 1971 was regularly performing professionally; by the age of 25, she was already leading her own groups. She first traveled to the U.S. in 1978, and later recorded with Dave Liebman; in 1981, she also journeyed to Europe, where she and her trio played the Berlin Jazz Festival. By 1982, Takase was regularly in the studio, leading such dates as A.B.C. and Perdido. In New York, she recorded with artists including Sheila Jordan, Cecil McBee, and Bob Moses, and also delivered a much-acclaimed performance at the East-West Festival in Nuremburg. From 1988 to 1994, Takase regularly played in a duo with Maria João and maintained her busy festival schedule. She also toured with Coltrane alumni Rashied Ali and Reggie Workman, founded a septet comprising other Japanese musicians, composed for a string quartet, and continued to work as a solo performer (at times playing the koto, a traditional Chinese 17-string zither). During this period, Takase released a handful of well-regarded albums on Enja, including 1990's Shima Shoka, 1993's Looking for Love, 1995's Blue Monk, and 1997's Oriental Express. She also joined her husband, pianist Alex von Schlippenbach, for a series of concerts collected on Piano Duets: Live in Berlin, 1993-1994. The 2000s were a productive time for the pianist, who continued releasing albums on Enja, Leo, and other labels. She also developed a fruitful relationship with the Intakt label, delivering 2009's Evergreen, 2011's Two for Two, and 2014's So Long, Eric! Homage to Eric Dolphy. In 2017 she paired with saxophonist David Murray for the duo album Cherry [Sakura]. Hokusai arrived two years later and featured Takase on her own and in duet with her husband, pianist von Schlippenbach. Isn't It Romantic?, a duo offering with saxophonist Daniel Erdmann, was released in 2019. In 2021, she recorded Four Hands Piano Pieces in collaboration with von Schlippenbach; it was released on Trost in 2023. The following year, BBE reissued Song for Hope, an archival trio recording made at her 1981 Berlin Jazz Festival debut. Originally issued by Enja, it had been out of print for nearly 40 years.
© Jason Ankeny /TiVo


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