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.