Hailing from Osaka, Japan, the Hammond Organist, Akiko Tsuruga is in a center stage of New York jazz scene since 2001. This talented young organist began to play organ at the age of three and started off her career right after her graduation from Osaka College of Music. While she was based in Osaka, she had numerous opportunities to play with renowned jazz men from the United States such as Roy Hargrove, Jeff “Tain” Watts, and Grady Tate to name a few. Particularly, Grady Tate is considered as one of her mentors, and perhaps she admires the most and was influenced infinitely. He played on her Japanese debut album and convinced her to move to the United States.
Once she has landed on Jazz Mecca, New York, it didn’t take much time to be recognized by musicians. She embraced herself to be called one of top organ players in the city. She is always a crowd pleaser in Dizzy Club in Jazz at Lincoln Center, and performed in many well-known jazz venues such as Blue Note, Birdland, and Smoke. She also enjoys being a sideman of other great jazz artists. Grady Tate’s vocal group and Lou Donaldson Quartet fill up her schedule along with her own group.
Her debut CD, “Harlem Dreams” featuring Grady Tate and Frank Wess was released in Japan from M&I Company in May 2004. CD sales was very successful and she led a “home coming” tour featured Grady Tate and Satoshi Inoue in the summer of 2004. She returned to Japan in the following year, September 2005, with Eric Johnson and Fukushi Tainaka. This tour wasn’t just her another successful tour. It brought an endorsement deal with Hammond Suzuki and she became an official Hammond XK-3 endorser. She also had an opportunity to write a jazz organ instructional book and published by Berklee Press, titled “Hammond Organ Complete,” and it was translated from English to Japanese and published in Japan as well.
In Mach 2007, her 1st album in US, “Sweet and Funky” was released in North Americas through 18th & Vine Records, and Downbeat gave her four stars in their review(With the success of the CD, she made appearance in Japanese movie, “Last Love,” as a jazz pianist.). The album scored #13 on the jazz radio charts, and Downbeat included her “Sweet and Funky” within their “Best CDs of 2007” list. Downbeat Critics Poll also made a good remark on her talent and gave her 10th spot in Rising Star Organist ranking. In October 2007, her 3rd Japanese release, “St. Luis Blues” featuring Bernard Purdie and Houston Person came out. More noteworthy, she performed extensively as a member of Lou Donaldson Quartet