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Exploring the Jazz Organ of Akiko Tsuruga – Commencement – Hammond B3 Done Right!!

As I looked down the JazzWeek Chart  for the Week of October 6th this morning, prior to a trip to Target, I noted the Commencementalbum at #5 Commencement  from Akiko, has risen from 16 to 5 over the last month. Not knowing anything about the artist, I went to Spotify and found the album, since the album cover features a young woman relaxing on a Hammond keyboard, I figured it just may be an album that would appeal to me! Once again, I was correct and then some! Akiko’s full name is Akiko Tsuruga and the incredible young organist has been active in the New York Jazz scene since her arrival from  Osaka, Japan in 2001.  Here’s what some folks in the know have to say about Akiko…

“With a million dollar smile and stage presence that makes one glad to be in the audience, she is a killer player!” – Jazz Mobile

“Tsuruga investigates a banquet of moods — from slow and steamy to straight swing to down-home funk — with verve, feeling and persuasion.” –

“She’s the real deal.” –Jazz Times Read More

Like  most jazz artist Akiko started her music education early. In her case it was the organ at the age of three, immediately after her graduation from the Osaka College of Music, she began playing professionally. As her career progressed in Osaka, she met and played with American musicians like Roy Hargrove and Jeff  “Train” Watts, but the artist who may have had the biggest impact on her career was drummer Grady Tate. Tate, who Akiko may admire more that any other musician had a huge impact on her decision to become a professional musician. He also convinced her to move to the U.S. Along with her solo career Akiko has also performed as a sideman with the Lou Donaldson Quartet and with the Grady Tate vocal group!

Commencement is Akiko’s seventh album and features, along with her fantastic organ skills, guitarist Eric Johnson and drummer Vincent Ector. Two of the tracks that caught my attention this morning were her covers of  “When Johnny Covers Marching Home” (move over Jimmy Smith, this woman can play) and “Spanish Flea” , probably because these were the songs that I know along L*O*V*E, but  was I rocking out to all the other seven tracks (10 total), too!!

So Check Out Her Music and as for me what am  doing, that’s right I’ll be checking out her back catalog!!

Artist Website

Here’s Akiko performing “Alligator Boogaloo” from a Lou Donaldson LP of the same name. The video also features: Lou Donaldson-alto sax, Randy Johnston-guitar, Fukushi Tainaka-drums