You don’t have to be a jazz fan to appreciate Akiko Tsuruga’s chops on the Hammond B3, but if you’re not you’ll be quickly won over. Her technical skill and obvious joy behind her instrument transcends genre; her playing belies her Japanese origin – she sounds like Booker T and Gregg Allman had a jazz baby. She’s lived in the US for a good while now, but her charming between song banter in halting English relays her humor and obvious admiration for both her fellow musicians and the music itself. While you can’t go back in time and experience Sunday’s afternoon show at Alva’s in San Pedro, you do have a couple more chances to see her in the area this week and I highly recommend that you do. You’ll be amazed.
Originally from Osaka, Akiko has been playing the organ since she was three, studied with Atsuko Hashimoto (a pioneer for Japanese Hammond B3 players), launched her career after graduating from the Osaka College of Music and went on to play with many jazz heavyweights – Grady Tate, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Frank Wess and Jimmy Cobb, to name just a few; and plays at jazz clubs and festivals globally.
Her set is a good mix of standards, original compositions, and whimsical choice – ‘Spanish Flea’, probably best known as the theme from The Dating Game, was a standout from the show at Alva’s. This brief West Coast tour brings her together with Jeff Hamilton on drums and Graham Dechter on guitar – arguably two of the best jazz musicians on their respective instruments around today. This is as solid a trio as you are going to get, well worth the cover. Bacchus Kitchen is relatively new in Pasadena but already renown for its fresh, inventive fare. Unlike other supper clubs (sorry, Catalina), dinner will be served and completed before the show starts, so that the focus is on the music. Go, go, go!
Akiko Tsuruga Organ Trio with Jeff Hamilton and Graham Dechter
Monday, April 11 – Bacchus Kitchen, Pasadena – 6pm
Tuesday, April 12 – The Nash, Phoenix, AZ – 7:30pm
Wednesday, April 13 – Seven Degrees, Laguna Beach – 6pm