Fukuda is one of the best jazz pianists in Japan. He plays with
a clear-edged crystal tone and an outstanding rhythmic sense, creating
superbly constructed, beautiful improvisations. Highly versatile
and expressive, Fukuda adapts equally well to acoustic jazz and
fusion music. Although he regularly performs his own music with
his trio, Fukuda has been a key member of several prominent combos
for more than 20 years. By offering fine music to many jazz lovers
in Japan, he has won high recognition from fellow musicians as a
reliable and first-class player.
on May 8, 1957, in Maebashi, and bred in Takasaki (cities of Gumma
prefecture, about 60 miles north of Tokyo), Fukuda began learning
classical piano at age 4. His first experience with jazz was during
his mid-teens listening to Chick Corea's "Return to Forever."
He was especially fascinated by the fabulous "Rhodes"
electric piano sound. At the time he did not anticipate playing
jazz himself in the near future, being mainly interested in composing
modern music. Fukuda had studied musical theory by analyzing works
from Bach to Beethoven to Debussy, and he preferred composers such
as Debussy, Stravinsky, and Schoenberg. Among his favorite composers
was Tohru Takemitsu, an internationally renowned composer who has
sometimes been called the Japanese equivalent of Debussy.
second encounter with jazz occurred during his university days,
when he heard a series of recordings by the mid-60's legendary Miles
Davis quintet with Herbie Hancock at the piano. He was amazed at
Hancock's advanced sense of harmony, and he became totally absorbed
by it. He also recognized the intellectual nature of jazz, which
he had perceived previously in Takemitsu's compositions. Another
strong influence was the music of Keith Jarrett, with its brilliant
tone, which convinced Fukuda that fine tone was important in conveying
his message to an audience. The creation of Fukuda's beautiful tone
came naturally to him, since he had already acquired the strength
and discipline needed for playing classical piano. Finally, the
rhythm and groove of Fukuda's playing reflect a strong influence
by the Japanese drum master, George Ohtsuka.
jazz career began in 1980, and he has been a hard-driving player
ever since. Inspired by harmony, tone, and groove influences of
the aforementioned musicians, Fukuda established his own style with
a characteristic groove and fine touch as core elements. Another
Fukuda hallmark has been his simultaneous pursuit of musical aggressiveness
and elegance, resulting in a highly sophisticated style. His ballad
playing evokes rich imagery in the minds of his listeners. Consequently,
his music can induce a meditative response, creating a tranquil
atmosphere like that of a Zen stone garden. Although Fukuda has
not explicitly set out to convey a Japanese flavor, his music's
refined beauty reflects some of the best artistic aspects of his
Watanabe (as) and Terumasa Hino (tp) are just two of the many great
jazz artists with whom Fukuda has played over the years. He has
recorded many albums of jazz, Brazilian, and club music with other
musicians, including works for ballet! He has recorded three albums
with his own trio, the first of which, "Blessing," was
recorded with Ron Carter (b) and Joe Chambers (dr) in New York in
1998. In March 2002 he recorded his second album, "Inner Views,"
with Charnett Moffett (b) and Al Foster (dr), for which he was awarded
the "Jazz Life Disc Grand Prix 2003." Six months later
the third album "Live@ Body&Soul" was recorded with
his regular trio members, Satoshi Kosugi (b) and Cecil Monroe (dr),
and guest player Toshiki Nunokawa (g). This project also produced
a DVD from the same recording date, which very nicely captures the
atmosphere of a Tokyo jazz club. Fukuda is also a featured pianist
on a recording by Yasushi Ichihara's (dr) trio, which has recently
gained him even more popularity.
occupies an important place among original jazz composers. His compositions
range from modal tunes to lyrical ballads and contain an elegance
and 'song' that are sometimes missing from contemporary jazz music.
Moreover, his original compositions provide the best material for
his impressive improvisations. He is also a masterful arranger,
reconstructing components of the blues and skillfully adapting these
to modern funk music. With his deep understanding of composition
and arrangement, he spins truly inspirational music with the piano,
providing the perfect ambience for many singers as well as other
to him. His playing has fascinated music lovers from all parts of
the world, and he is bound to attract greater international recognition.
No matter which type of modern music you appreciate most, you will
want to discover Shigeo Fukuda.