Takase, Aki, pianist who draws from the broadest palette to include elements from the Japanese musical tradition as well as from European Classical music; b. Osaka, Japan, Jan. 26, 1948. Aki Takase received her earliest piano training from her mother, a piano teacher, who gave her daughter classical lessons from the age of three. She also played acoustic bass in an all-woman band in high school, and after graduation studied piano at Tohogakuen Univ. of Tokyo. Inspired by recordings of Charles Mingus, Omette Coleman, and John Coltrane, she began learning on her own how to improvise. She got her first professional gigs in 1971 and by age 25 was leading her own groups. She recorded with saxophonist Dave Liebman in the early 1980s, and appeared with her trio at the Berlin festival. She has worked with artists such as Cecil McBee, Sheila Jordan, and Bob Moses, and a solo piano concert at the East-West Festival in Nuremberg brought her critical acclaim. She played regularly in a duo with Maria Joao from 1988-94, and maintained a busy touring schedule. During the mid-1990s, she toured with Rashed Ali and Reggie Workman (a trio which yielded the recording Clapping Music), formed a septet, and recorded with the Toki String Quartet, as well as working as a solo performer. She also plays the koto, a traditional Japanese 17-string, zither-like instrument, but it is her unmatched, multifarious piano performances and her skills as composer-arranger that rank her as a top innovator among her contemporaries.
Perdido (1982); Shima Shoka (1990); Close Up of Japan (1993); Looking for Love (1993); Blue Monk (1994); Clapping Music (1995); Oriental Express (1996).
—Nancy Ann Lee