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Sumi Tonooka

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Noted jazz critic Francis Davis, one of the first to recognize her as an extraordinary talent, placed Sumi Tonooka “among the best of today’s young pianists.” During a career now spanning more than 20 years, Sumi Tonooka has been surprising and delighting audiences — and quietly piling up accolades from jazz writers and her fellow musicians. Working in trio or quartet with such noted jazz stalwarts as bassist Rufus Reid and drummers Akira Tana and Lewis Nash, Tonooka’s recordings characteristically blend her own compositions with highly personal readings of jazz standards. Her first professional stint at age 18 was with the Philly Joe Jones quartet, Le Grand Prix. From there she went on to perform with such luminaries as Kenny Burrell, Little Jimmy Scott, Sonny Fortune, Red Rodney, Benny Golson and David Fathead Newman. Ms. Tonooka holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Philadelphia College of Performing Arts. She studied piano with Bernard Peiffer, Susan Starr, Mary Lou Williams, and Stanley Cowell, and received additional training in piano and composition from Madame Margaret Chaloff of the New England Conservatory of Music. In addition to her jazz recording and performing, she has composed for film and dance.

Japanese-American and African-American by background, Sumi Tonooka has also broken new ground in her extended compositions blending Japanese musical instrumentation with jazz. Her 1988 work, “Out from the Silence,” for koto, shakuhachi, and jazz ensemble, was commissioned by the Japanese-American Citizens League to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the World War II–era internment of Japanese-Americans.

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