Press Material for Journalists all the the way at the bottom of this page.
Some Other Time CD reviews
“Shirasaki is a pianist of limitless imagination, displayed on each improvisation and ingenious arrangement.” --- Wilbert Sostre, latinjazznet.com
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"one of the most enjoyable and impressive albums of the year." --- Jeff Winbush, allaboutjazz.com
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"Ayako Shirasaki on 'Some Other Time' shows yet again that she is a delicate dynamo of poetic energy and taste. Whether playing an original or a familiar standard, Ayako's whisking attack infuses the piano with an emotional, organic quality. In her hands, we hear the instrument sigh, pant, rant and rave―with notes becoming a bouquet of exotic flowers." ―Marc Myers, JazzWax.com
"Quite possibly the best take on "Oleo" since Sonny Rollins put it out there! Ayako Shirasaki sets the keys and ears ablaze with her unique blend of class, sass and pizzazz on the thoroughly engaging Some Other Time!"
- Dan Bilawsky, writer for allaboutjazz.com, June 19, 2013
http://jazzquad.ru/index.pl?act=PRODUCT&id=3268 (in Russian)
http://jazzeseruido.blogspot.com/2013/08/la-voz-del-piano.html (in Spanish)
"Because of her spontaneous friendly communication there was an immediate connection to the audience. Also more modern repertoire as "Airegin" by Sonny Rollins or her own "Monkey Punch" was immediately welcomed."
Hans-Dieter Grünefeld in the German Piano Magazine "Piano NEWS
", 02/2012, pg. 52-54 / Interview
Preview for the Lucerne Festival at the Piano off-stage November 22 - 27, 2011 in Jazz'n'More
, Swiss Jazz Magazine 6/2011 Nov-/Dec., p. 18
"Shirasaki is the complete package, possessing commanding technique that comes from a classical foundation but works in complete service of jazz, and she marries her heart and head with her hands throughout Falling Leaves—Live In Hamburg.
Dan Bilawsky in allaboutjazz.com
, April 2011
"Shirasaki demonstrates substantial range... excellent concert..."
- Don Lerman in Cadence 4-5-6/2011 Magazine, pg. 105 (CD review for Ayako's latest CD "Falling Leaves - Live in Hamburg")
"Shirasaki's flawless navigation of Sonny Rollin's arduous "Airegin" is an attention grabber,.......Shirasaki's intuition for improvisation creates warm-blooded performances with well-chosen stylistic details that amplify the inherent attraction of each tune."
- Mark Holston in JAZZIZ spring issue 2011, p. 86: Four pianists scure Japan's rep as a jazz powerhouse
"Among the many female jazz pianists Ayako Shirasaki is one of the most prominent, as she is able, combining vintage and avant-garde, to bring in her personality while at the same time playing incredibly precise." "fascinating listening experience"
Tom Fuchs in the German Piano Magazine "Piano NEWS
", 01/2011, pg. 106 (CD review for Ayako's latest CD "Falling Leaves - Live in Hamburg")
"Pianist AYAKO SHIRASAKI is new to me, but since hearing her new album Falling Leaves (Jan Matthies Music – 201001), I will make sure that her music remains a part of my listening experiences. Shirasaki is originally from Japan, but eventually moved to New York City where she now resides. Falling Leaves was recorded in Hamburg, Germany before an audience, and the feeling of the excitement that her playing created is palpable throughout the disc. There are fifteen tracks, four of them comprising an interlude that is titled “Four Seasons Medley.” “Sakura Sakura” is a Japanese traditional piece that honors the cherry blossom, a sign of spring. “Summertime” is as sultry as the season. Shirasaki’s “Falling Leaves” brings us to the autumn, and the melody suggests the descending foliage. Her riveting take on “Sleigh Ride” completes this seasonal cycle. There are many other highlights, my particular favorite being her second encore, a medley of “Take Five” and “St. Thomas.” Shirasaki speaks in the liner notes of her affinity for bebop, and that is much in evidence on the album, but she is not solely tied to that genre, showing an eclecticism and originality that is exciting and appealing. (www.janmatthiesrecords.com)"
"The consistent performance and interpretation of jazz standards has become rare in this era of ultra-modern formations. But in autumn when the nights get longer and colder and when long time audiophile evenings in living rooms with carefully positioned high-fidelity speakers are more comfortable again, this pure form of jazz interpretation is regaining its appeal.
Right now, the Japanese pianist Ayako Shirasaki comes with a piano solo album with an autumnal title. The origin is unusual: Japanese descent, gifted jazz pianist who lives in New York, gives a double concert in Hamburg, one with her trio and this solo concert. The recording reflects the genuine atmosphere of the concert. A baroque concert hall had been chosen, and here Shirasaki seems to be in her element. She opened the evening with a very imaginative interpretation of Charlie Parker’s “Confirmation”. Later Sonny Rollins “Airegin” Barry Harris “Nascimento” and Chick Corea’s “Mirror Mirror” were to be heard. Virtuoso and very focused Shirasaki generated a tremendous body of sound, which combined jazz and classical solo piano performance. She modulated, accentuated, but didn’t quite manages to reach the freshness of an ensemble and escape the hotel lobbies jazz credo, as it would have been worthy for her artistic ability. She puts a lot of personality, poetry and virtuosity in the pieces and uses her tremendous harmonic modulation capability for great dramatic tension. As encore, she plays Paul Desmond’s “Take Five” - but not simply alone, she transferred the famous 5/4 into the wild Sonny Rollins calypso “St. Thomas” - a spectacle. Gratifying that Shirasaki also mixes some of her own compositions in her set. The highlight is her version of the always liked to be heard story of an New York autumn afternoon - “Falling Leaves”. An album for piano lovers and purists, but also for a long audiophile autumn evening."
- Nabil Atassi in Jazzthetik
, Germany, 01/02 2011 on page 81.
"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."
"Ayako Shirasaki takes you on a musical journey through a rich musical landscape of time-honored classics interpreted with grace and finesse. Falling Leaves is not your typical solo piano outing, it contains several magical moments listeners will turn to often."
“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
a daily blog that features interviews with jazz legends and commentary on legendary jazz recordings. He also writes on jazz for the Wall Street Journal.
"Our readers already had the opportunity to meet the japanese pianist Ayako Shirasaki because of the album "Best of the 1st International Jazz Solo Piano Festival 2009". Ayako back then took part in that festival playing various venues in Germany and was presented on the CD with a several compositions. Now her solo album is being presented. Again in Germany, again a live concert recording, a CD from her Hamburg concert appearance in October 2009. To be heard is also a rousing applause by the audience, which praised Ayako's great talent.
Shirasaki grew up with Jazz. Her father taught her the love for this kind of music; the young pianist, at about the age of 10, was already crazy about the works by Charlie Parker and Bud Powell, with 12, she played as a professional beginner in Jazz clubs of Tokyo. Followed by the study of classical music at the University of Music and Art, also in Tokyo. She returned to Jazz and moved to the U.S.A. in 1997. In America, she got married and was given new impetus to the development of her talents.
The name of the program, presented by Ayako Shirasaki in Hamburg, comes from her own composition "Falling Leaves". Involuntarily the name of the famous jazz standard "Autumn Leaves" by Joseph Kosma is called to ones mind. I do not take responsibility for ensuring that the piece by Ayako is is being awaited by similar success, but I state that her composition and its performance is hardly less emotional, tender and elegant, than that of "Autumn Leaves".
Performed in Hamburg were also two other original compositions "Monkey Punch", inspired by the works of Thelonious Monk and "Far Away". One of the perfomed pieces looked rather unusual for a jazz concert, it's the talk of "Sakura Sakura", a stylization of a traditional Japanese melody. The performance was, I think, influenced by the classical piano school, that Ayako got to know at her time in the University of Music and Art.
The remaining tracks on the CD are compositions of the jazz giants, from Ellington to Chick Corea. Particularly noteworthy is "Confirmation" by Charlie Parker, Ayako started the concert with this composition. Ironically, this song has been played by Ayako before audiences since the age of 12. "Summertime" by Gershwin also needs to be mentioned. Ayako was able to give this often played piece her very own color and interpretation.
Long after the official end of the concert Ayako kept everyone on the edge of their seats with her encores by request. On the album are four more pieces which caused strong applause. The great final for the album and concert was the famous "Take Five" which harmonically melted into the composition of Sonny Rollings "St. Thomas". I hope that all jazz solo piano fans will share the enthusiasm of the Hamburg audience, which liked the performance by Ayako Shirasaki particularly well."
- Loenid Auskern in Jazz Quadrat
, Russia and the Baltic States, September 2010
“A former jazz piano prodigy in her native Japan (she transcribed Bud Powell solos at the age of five and was performing regularly at Tokyo jazz clubs by 12), Ayako Shirasaki has been making a name for herself in recent years on the New York scene. A graduate of the Manhattan School of Music, where she studied with Kenny Barron and Ted Rosenthal, among others, she’s appeared at most of the city’s major clubs and played with top mainstream talent like Lewis Nash, Kenny Garrett and Harold Ousley.
On her latest release, the solo piano disc Falling Leaves, recorded last year before an appreciative audience at a Hamburg concert hall, Shirasaki mixes superb classically-based technique, advanced harmonic ideas and a rich, creative musical imagination. While much of her bebop-rooted program draws on standards and well-known jazz fare, she imbues every song she plays with a deeply personal, poetic touch that favorably recalls sophisticated piano masters like Tommy Flanagan and Hank Jones.
She begins Charlie Parker’s “Confirmation”, for example, with an abstract, nearly unrecognizable intro before diving into the familiar Bird refrain. On Sonny Rollins’ “Airegin”, she blends in classical flourishes and even a surprising touch of stride. She also pays tribute to the great bebop pianist Barry Harris with a rousing rendition of his “Nascimento”, a crowdpleasing samba complete with rhythmic handclaps. The three original compositions she includes here also show enormous promise and range, from the spunky, Monk-influenced “Monkey Punch” to the dreamy, sophisticated “Far Away”.
Shirasaki has a refreshing sense of humor, too. Taking audience requests for her encores, she admits she hasn’t played “Moonglow” for 20 years and “My Romance” for 5 years, then turns around and knocks out moving, inventive, bravura performances of the two old chestnuts. And she closes the album on an improvisational high, merging Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” and Rollins’ “St. Thomas” in an unlikely and exhilarating impromptu medley, played in 5/4 time. It’s a thrilling ending to a highly enjoyable album by a new jazz star in the making.”
“This recording is a thoroughly enjoyable tribute to mainstream Jazz solo piano. Truly international—Claus is German, Albanese American, and Shirasaki Japanese—the session celebrates the Jazz of mid-century America. “Lennie’s Pennies” opens with a chorus of “Pennies from Heaven” done in old-time fashion stride before slipping into the Tristano head; heady territory to light upon, but she -Ayako Shirasaki- handles it with admirable aplomb obviously echoing Tristano’s own solo style in spots, but moving far, far beyond imitation. The performance is an ebullient end to a party for piano lovers.”
- David Dupont in Cadence
, 7-8-9/2010 Magazine, pgs. 158-159.
about CD "Best of 1st International Jazz Solo Piano Festival"
©Cadence Magazine 2010. www.cadencebuilding.com ph: 315-287-2852
"Like Hiromi, Tokyo native Ayako Shirasaki (who currently resides in New York) was a classically trained prodigy who discovered jazz early (influences include Bud Powell and Art Tatum) and was soon amassing awards. Often playing with grand orchestral flourishes , she’s been praised for her intricate harmonies, strong melodic sense and powerfully rhythmic approach to piano. She has released two CDs, Existence and Home Alone."
- Jeff Tamarkin about Ayako Shirasaki in JazzTimes
, Feb. 2010, page 40.
“Ayako Shirasaki added the final touches to an evening of piano virtuoso expression with an exceptionally playful yet respectful interpretation of Dizzy Gillespie’s “Con Alma” then turning in a charming performance on the classical-waltz standard “Someday My Prince Will Come.” For the finale piece of the set and concert, the lady challenges herself on a complicated rendition of Lennie Tristano’s “Lennie’s Pennies” running single-note and bass line runs with exceptional ease.”
“Several weeks ago, the classically trained pianist Ayako Shirasaki was to be experienced on German concert stages (presented by Jazzthetik).
Until now, there are five CDs to be heard from the japanese, but already some time in New York-based artist - “Musically Yours” is the penultimate. On this album published in 2005, Shirasaki offers two original compositions with her trio (bassist Matt Clohesy and drummer Shinnosuke Takahasi), pieces of her revered pianists Thelonious Monk and Bud Powell, and famous jazz standards like “Lush Life” and “Seven Steps To Heaven.
All of this being played with great technique and ingenuity at the highest technical level by the young musician. With her supple touch of the keys reminiscent of Tommy Flanagan, the swinging rhythmic feel of Bud Powell. But the best part for me is the apparent ease of her performance, that combines power and emotion together in harmony, which creates comforting goose bumps for me. And for fans of the solo piano Shirasakis most recent work “Home Alone” is recommended (which has been recorded in only two days).”
- Olaf Maikopf about Ayako Shirasaki’s CD “Musically Yours” in Jazzthetik
, Germany, Feb. 2010, page 59
“Improvisation, interpretation or composition? This question arises from the possibility of being able to experience the jazz pianist Ayako Shirasaki on two consecutive evenings with completely different formations. The conditions of the two concerts in Hamburg could not be more different: On the first evening at the jazz club, even at the ground with her trio, on the next evening solo, solemnly on the stage of the baroque Hamburger Laeiszhalle. Day 1, the Trio in the Jazz Club “Stellwerk” Hamburg-Harburg. Only for a brief moment, the appearance of the graceful Japanese woman gives the impression that it would be a quiet concert. She starts the program with two standards, lays claim to groove. Her two sidemen from Hamburg, Philipp Steen (b) and Kai Bussenius (dr), two young wild ones in suits with sneakers, helping her to do so. The pianist had deliberately decided for the two in advance of her tour of northern Germany: “I have been listening to both their profiles on the internet - and they just fitted perfectly with my style!” A good decision. While Ayako with clear play, technically brilliant, sometimes lightly swinging, sometimes ponderous, festive and lyrical narrative with a gentle look (not without a certain degree of severity) dictates the direction, the two go to work accentuated, sometimes a little wooden, but full of verve and give the concert a certain youthful, sometimes even pleasantly rough charm. Shirasaki varies between standards and original compositions, pilots her sidemen, who now really got it going, gracefully through the set to the point of “Airegin” by Sonny Rollins, the musical highlight of the evening (and the opener of her CD “Existence” from 2003). Now, all three musicians rush focused through the fast-paced piece, one solo chasing the next one – until all three let loose their improvisational drive in the final and in doing so they sound like a real New York jazz piano trio. Conclusion: Surprisingly loud and surprisingly wild!
Day 2, Shirasaki solo in Studio E of the Laeiszhalle. In the noble ambience of the room arises a solemn, somewhat tense concertante atmosphere. Exactly here Shirasaki seems to be in her element, looking at her smile of satisfaction at the resolution of the first chords. Already at the opening piece, a composition by Billy Strayhorn, it is clear that this evening would not be a dynamic replica of yesterday. Virtuoso and very focused Shirasaki creates a huge sound, which combines jazz and elements of classical solo piano performance. She modulates, accentuates, but doesn’t quite manage it to reach the freshness of the previous evening. “Solo is a stoic affair, you have to make everything yourself. It means freedom, but as well much responsibility.”, says the pianist. Perhaps that’s why Shirasaki today performs more as an interpreter than as a composer. Standard to standard, Shirasaki’s own compositions almost don’t take place. In the second set, she shows that solo jazz piano can be great art and tells with the lyric “Falling Leaves” the gladly listened to story of an autumn afternoon in New York City. She ends the concert with an incredible medley of no less than three standards requested by the audience. World class.
On two evenings in Hamburg, one could experience two different facets of a very interesting pianist. When asked about her way forward, she sees herself more than an improviser and interpreter than as a composer. In any way she is definitely easy to like and left her audience, despite the musical differences on both nights, into the autumn evening with the comforting feeling of just having heard really good music."
- Nabil Atassi about Ayako Shirasaki’s concerts in Hamburg for Jazzthetik
, Germany, Dec. 2009, page 66
“World class” - Concert Review - CD Release Tour for “Best of 1st International Jazz Solo Piano Festival 2009″
“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
"In CD-ready precision Ayako Shirasaki (the name is to be remembered) presented Bill Evans' "Turn Out the Stars, " Bud Powell's "Un Poco Loco" and Gillespie's "Con Alma", the delicate harmony in their interpretation by Debussy could have come from. The concert pianist filled the frame with jazz improvisation at the highest level,"
- Tobias Richtsteig about Ayako Shirasaki’s live performance
at the 1st International Jazz Solo Piano Festival 2009 in Berlin
, Germany, May 2009, page 72
“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
Press Material for Journalists
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