Hailing from Osaka, Japan, the Hammond organist and pianist, Akiko Tsuruga has been a mainstay in the New York jazz scene since 2001. This talented young organist began playing the organ at the age of three and launched her career in jazz immediately after graduating from the Osaka College of Music. While living in Osaka, she had the opportunity to play with numerous world-renowned jazz musicians from the United States, such as Roy Hargrove, Jeff Tain Watts, and Grady Tate, to name just a few. Grady Tate, in particular, had the strongest influence on her decision to become a professional musician. She considers him to be one of her mentors, and perhaps the musician she admires the most. Grady performed on her Japanese debut album and also convinced her to move to the United States.
After landing in the mecca of jazz, New York city, it didnt take long for Akiko to make her mark. She was embraced by her fellow musicians and recognized as one of the top organ players in the city. A regular and crowd favorite at Dizzy's club Coca Cola in Jazz at Lincoln Center, Akiko has headlined many well-known jazz venues, such as Blue Note, Birdland and Smoke. She also enjoys performing as a side musician for other jazz artists. Grady Tates vocal group and the Lou Donaldson Quartet are just two of the many artists she frequently performs with.
Her debut CD, Harlem Dreams featuring Grady Tate and Frank Wess was released in Japan by M & I Company in May of 2004. The CD received rave reviews and sold extremely well and this ultimately led to a Japan homecoming tour featuring Grady Tate and Satoshi Inoue in the Summer of 2004.
She returned to tour Japan in September of the following year with Eric Johnson and Fukushi Tainaka. The tour was another smashing success and it also resulted in an endorsement deal with Hammond Suzuki. Akiko had become an official Hammond XK-3 endorser. She also had an opportunity to write a jazz organ instructional book, which was published by Berklee Press, titled Hammond Organ Complete,. The book was translated from English to Japanese and published in Japan as well.
Her second CD, titled Sweet and Funky was released in Japan only on November 2006. In the same year, she made an appearance in the Japanese movie, Last Love, playing the role of a jazz pianist. In March 2007, Sweet and Funky was released in North America through 18th & Vine Records. The CD reached a high of #13 on the jazz radio charts. Downbeat magazine awarded the CD four stars and placed it on their Best CDs of 2007 list. The Downbeat Critics Poll also gave her high marks for talent and voted her into the 10th spot in the Rising Star Organist ranking. In October of 2007, she released her 3rd CD, St. Louis Blues featuring Bernard Purdie and Houston Person. More noteworthy, she performed extensively as a member of the Lou Donaldson Quartet and toured throughout the United States. Appearances at Birdland, the Village Vanguard and Carnegie Hall were just one of many highlights she experienced that year. She concluded her outstanding year by capturing the New Star Award presented by Swing Journal Magazine.
In 2008, she released her 4th CD called N.Y.C. Serenade through Mojo Records and featured Jimmy Cobb on drums. This was immediately followed by a three week promotional tour in Japan with her regular trio. Her highly anticipated second North America issued CD, Oriental Express(featuring Eric Johnson, Rudy Petschauer and Jerry Weldon) from 18th & Vine Records was released in the summer of 2009 and earned a #15 spot on jazz radio chart.
Akiko recently returned to Japan to perform at the Tokyo Jazz Festival with Lou Donaldson. The performance was featured on a special TV program and was aired nationwide in Japan.