Yuka Aikawa, pianist/composer, began playing piano
at the age of five in her native Japan, and went on to
earn a B.A. in piano performance at Kunitachi College
of Music in Tokyo. It was in college, while studying
classical piano with Yasuko Shinoi and Toyoko Kreutzer,
that a friend gave her some cassette recordings of
Oscar Peterson and Bill Evans. As soon as she listened
to the tapes, she became interested in jazz. Her love
for jazz prompted a move to New York City, where
she studied basic jazz theory at the New School for one year,
before moving on to the Aaron Copland School of Music
at Queens College, where she received her M.A.
in jazz performance under the guidance of
Sir Roland Hanna and Jimmy Heath. During this time,
she received the prestigious Michael Feinstein Award for outstanding talent.
After Queens College, Yuka began performing her compositions in New York jazz clubs like Birdland and Smalls, with Arnie Lawrence (alto sax), Patience Higgins (reeds), Myron Walden (alto sax), and other jazz heavyweights. She has appeared at the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Convention, with the Davey Yarborough (tenor sax) Quartet, at the Asian Pacific Heritage Festival, featuring Frank Gordon (trumpet), and at the Liberty Park Summer Festival in New Jersey.
Her first CD, "All Beings in the Whole Universe," was issued on the Japanese label, Paddle Wheel, by King Records in 1999, and she performed CD debut concerts with Benny Powell (trombone) and Newman T. Baker (drums) at the Pit Inn Tokyo and several other concert halls in Japan. In 2000, she toured from Fort Lauderdale to Southampton, England, as a member of "Jimmy Heath Kids," produced by Jimmy Heath, for the 18th Annual Floating Jazz Festival (QE2 jazz cruise), and was also featured that year at New York City's Blue Note for "East Meets West," produced by Cobi Narita.
In 2001, she went on her "New York Song Book Piano Solo Tour" in Hokkaido, Japan, donating net profits to the victims of the WTC tragedy and to Afghan refugees, through the Save The Children fund. She has been featured on the Japanese television program "i-style New York," on TBS. In 2002, she again appeared at the Blue Note with her quartet for the "East Meets West" series.
Yuka also accompanies The Lance Hayward Singers, a jazz vocal ensemble whose repertoire ranges from Schubert to spirituals to Count Basie tunes and performed with them on their CD, "One More Time," on the Town Crier label (www.towncrierrecordings.com).
Recently her piano solo recordings, Going Home, has been featured for Yamaha Disklavier PianoSoft "New York City Rising Star Series". (http://www.yamahamusicsoft.com/index.php?action=RisingStar)
Yuka currently resides in New York City and performs and tours in the U.S. and Japan.
"Yuka's playing style is rather calm and quiet. And it blends well with her compositional ideas and as a result produces interesting taste. She is an well skilled pianist, but on the other hand, I was quite impressed with her ability in arranging. As in her playing, there is no showing off. But her keen sense which produces this calm and imaginative sound is so impressive. It is interesting that, although they are quite different in style, there is something in common between Yuka and Thelonious Monk's music. The approach placing horns at the right time and right place reflects her idea that using as detail of the music effectively, rather than just putting them in front. Her future rests on how to make the most of her talent. This recording already has reached certain level, but with her talent, I'm sure she can do more."
- Takao Ogawa, Swing Journal (Japan)
(CD "All Beings In the Whole Universe" review)