Akira Tana was born in San Jose, California. He received degrees in East Asian Studies from Harvard University in 1974 and percussion from the New England Conservatory in 1979. Since moving to New York, he has established himself as one of today's most sought-after drummers on the international jazz scene.
Recognized for his ability to ignite the spark of many top rhythm sections and create pure musical dialogue with mainstay soloists, his colorful interactive style has led to concert, club and recording work with jazz greats such as Sonny Rollins, Sonny Stitt, Zoot Sims, Hubert Laws, Milt Jackson, Jim Hall, Art Farmer, The Paul Winter Consort, Paquito D'Rivera, James Moody, J.J. Johnson, Lena Horne, and The Manhattan Transfer, just to name a few. His work has not solely been limited to the jazz field; he has performed at the Tanglewood Festival under the direction of Leonard Bernstein, Seiji Ozawa and Gunther Schuller and has accompanied diverse artists such as Charles Aznavour, Maurice Hines and Van Dyke Parks with performances on over 150 recordings.Tana has played at many international jazz festivals, and has toured throughout the world. In the jazz education field, he has given workshops and clinics at a number of U. S. colleges including University of Pittsburgh, University of Georgia, University of Miami, and Berklee College of Music. Of particular interest was a concert-clinic tour of South America with the Heath Brothers sponsored and presented through the U.S. State Department.
Tana co-led a quintet for approximately 10 years with the bassist Rufus Reid, called TanaReid. They had 6 CD's released five of which were produced by Tana. He has also produced a number of critically acclaimed recordings of note including A Tribute to Wes Montgomery (Vols. I & II) with Kenny Burrell, Kevin Eubanks, and 5 other guitarists and one entitled The Asian American Jazz Trio w.keyboardist Kei Akagi. As a leader, Tana currently has a CD entitled Secret Agent Men on the Sons of Sound Record Label that features organist Dr. Lonnie Smith and guitarist Rodney Jones. He also has two other releases on Sons of Sound, "Moon Over The World," and "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang," a recording that features vocalist Annie Sellick. The music from the films of James Bond are featured on this project. "Otonowa" is Tana's fourth CD as a leader.
Recently relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area after 20 years in New York City, Tana continues to be active on the international jazz scene touring extensively as well as performing locally in and around San Francisco with his own groups and groups led by others. Having taught at New Jersey State College, Queens College, New York University, and Rutgers University while in the New York metropolitan area, he continues to be educationally active by teaching privately and at San Francisco State University and the Jazz Institute in Berkeley, CA. He also conducts clinics and masterclasses sponsored in part by Yamaha Drums and Vic Firth Sticks and Crescent Cymbals of which he plays exclusively.