Born: September 16 Primary Instrument: Piano
Recognized in her native Japan as a jazz prodigy (in the 5th grade she was already transcribing Bud Powell solos), Ayako Shirasaki while yet a pre-teen won many prizes including the Grand Prize at the Asakusa Jazz Competition. Her professional career began at the tender age of twelve when she began regular appearances at the J jazz club in Tokyo. Her extraordinary talent was soon recognized, and she was featured in Swing Journal.
Extremely versatile, Ayako majored in classical music at Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music and performed as a classical pianist for several years after graduation. But the love of the jazz idiom instilled by her father from the age of five won out, and Ayako soon returned to her first love, winning in 1995 second prize in the prestigious First Annual Heineken Jazz Competition.
In 1997 Ayako moved to New York City where she currently resides. Her talent won her a scholarship in the masters program at the Manhattan School of Music where she studied performance with such noted teachers as Kenny Barron and Ted Rosenthal and composition with Mike Abene.
Ayako is fast making a name for herself as one of the most exciting and inventive pianists on the New York jazz scene. She has been heard at the Blue Note, The Kitano, Birdland, Cobi's Place, Dizzy's Club, Sugar Hill Bistro, Swing 46, Copeland's, Cleopatra's Needle, and Kavehaz. Her unique style and strong rhythmic sense have made her much in demand. She has played with Lewis Nash, Kalil Madi, John Benitez, Steve Kirby, Kengo Nakamura, Kenny Garrett, Clarence Penn, Kit McLure and Harold Ousley.
Ayako was invited to perform in Aspen, CO as a member of the 2003 Jazz Aspen Snowmass Emerging Artist Program.
Ayako released two self-produced CDs in 2002, Live in New York with her trio and The Duo Live with vibraphonist Tim Collins.
In August 2003, her major debut CD Existence (Lewis Nash on drums, Marco Panascia on bass) was released in Japan.
Ayako is a two time finalist in the Great American Jazz Piano Competition in 2004 and 2005 in Jacksonville, Florida.
Her second major CD Musically Yours was released in June, 2005. In April 2006, Ayako's long-waited solo piano album Home Alone was released.
Ayako was a guest on Marian McPartland’s radio show “Piano Jazz,” which was broadcast in the Fall of 2006 on NPR.
In March 2009, Ayako was invited to the 1st International Jazz Solo Piano Festival in Germany, and her Europe debut was a big success, followed by a tour in Northern Germany in fall.
Demanded by her japanese fans the next tour starts in March in Japan.
Just a few notes out of Ayako Shirasaki’s piano are enough to realize you are listening to a very special musician. With her amazing combination of feeling, inventiveness and impressive virtuosity, Ayako is one of those musicians that make an unforgettable impression.- jazztimes.com (Wilbert Sostre)- November 2010 about her new CD Falling Leaves - Live in Hamburg
Falling Leaves is not your typical solo piano outing, it contains several magical moments listeners will turn to often.- eJazzNews.com - October 2010 about her new CD Falling Leaves - Live in Hamburg
…a highly enjoyable album by a new jazz star in the making.- AllAboutJazz-New York - September 2010 about her new CD Falling Leaves - Live in Hamburg
To my ears, Ayako is fast on her way to becoming a leading jazz light and fresh voice in the crowded field of performing jazz piano stars.- Marc Myers, JazzWax.com - September 2010
“Ayako Shirasaki is a devoted, virtuosic, daring and expressive pianist.”- Howard Mandel, president of the Jazz Journalists Association and senior contributor DOWNBEAT Magazine, September 2009
“Ayako is an extremely gifted musician. She is blessed with great technique, a fertile and creative imagination, a firm understanding of the jazz tradition and a real love for the music. I recommend Ayako without reservation.”- Pianist, Kenny Barron
“She is one amazing musician, and an incredible pianist and composer. One of the greatest pianists I’ve ever heard! Don’t dare miss her. Ayako has everything that makes a musician great.”-Pianist, Jessica Williams
“Jazz improvisation at the highest level.”- Jazzthetik, German Jazz Magazine, April 2009
“Shirasaki is a virtuoso whose technique ranges from a tender touch like the late Tommy Flanagan, and brisk runs like Bud Powell, but with a brilliant creativity all her own.”- Greg Thomas, Chief editor, Harlem World Magazine
“She’s awfully good: rhapsodic when the material demands but still quite capable of swinging with Powellish drive.”- Paul Blair, Hot House Jazz Magazine, November 2007
“Ayako has a very good sense of time and advanced harmonic ideas.”- Ted Rosenthal, Pianist and Thelonious Monk Competition Winner
“Ya’ know, the good thing about this girl is that she really can swing!!”- Dr. Buster Brown , Tap Dancer
“Ayako, you are the very best!”- Cobi Narita, Music promoter
Home Alone, Ayako Shirasaki Solo Piano
What's New Records
Tracks: In Walked Bud; Gee Baby, Ain't I Good To You; It's All Right With Me; Day Dream; Luminescence; Memories Of You; Woody'n You; Someday My Prince Will Come; Donna Lee; Far Away; Nascimento.
Personnel: Ayako Shirasaki: Piano.
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New York, NY
Willing to teach:
Classic, Jazz, Popular Theory, Improvisation, etc.
Also vocal accompanying is available.
All ages & levels welcome! Lessons may be given at my studio or at the student's home.