Two award-winning female Japanese jazz composers, Asuka Kakitani and Noriko Ueda, have joined forces to form Sakura Jazz Orchestra. Named for Japan’s most iconic flower, the cherry blossom, Sakura Jazz Orchestra celebrates the two women’s similar histories and their unique voices in modern jazz composition.
Although they wouldn’t meet for long time, Asuka Kakitani and Noriko Ueda shared many of the same experiences while growing up. Born a few years apart, they were both raised in the Kansai area of Japan and started piano lessons at a young age. Becoming interested in jazz in their late teens, both women attended a local music college before playing professionally in Japan (Asuka as a pianist and Noriko as an acoustic bassist). Years apart from one another, they were each awarded a scholarship to attend the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA, and it was during this time that their interest in big band writing began to grow. Pursuing a major in jazz composition and studying with many of the same professors, Asuka and Noriko started to find their own compositional voice, and with distinctive influences. Asuka was influenced by the sound of modern jazz composers Kenny Wheeler and Maria Schneider as well as twentieth century classical composer Samuel Barber, whereas Noriko was more influenced by post-bop composers Thad Jones, Gil Evans, and Bob Brookmeyer. After an invaluable time in Boston, they each decided there was but one place to go.
Asuka Kakitani and Noriko Ueda are two of the best of the newest generation of jazz composers.
Each has her own, distinct voice. The combination of the two should be musical dynamite! I highly
recommend hearing them, especially now that they have their own band.
-Jim McNeely (composer/arranger/pianist for Village Vanguard Orchestra, director of BMI Jazz Workshop)