DOB: March 25, 1961
Birthplace: Kobe, Japan
Occupation: Pianist & Composer
“Music has the power to connect people regardless of origin.”
I first met Ozone backstage in his dressing room at Davies Symphony Hall (San Francisco) for our interview and was taken aback at how disarmingly easy going he was. Most internationally recognized musicians I’ve interviewed or interacted with have some type of guard up, understandably, but Ozone was 100% fresh, open and charming in a non-chalant manner.
Ozone has garnered international fame as one of the world’s most acclaimed jazz pianists but my fascination with him stretches into the fact that he is one of the few renowned Asian jazz musicians in an industry dominated by African and Caucasian artists, and that he is a pioneer in fusing jazz and classical music. As a passionate lover of both classical and jazz music, I’m intrigued by his unique fusion and Ozone’s ability to open the ears and hearts of a new generation of music lovers to both genres.
At his performance in San Francisco (July 2014) with the San Francisco Symphony, every piece received a heartfelt standing ovation and loud cheers, unusual for the city’s sophisticated music audience. I have heard countless renditions of the pieces he played that night and I was astounded to hear what have now become the best renditions of Rhapsody in Blue and Bolero I have ever heard by far. Ozone’s version of Bolero was absolutely stunning; I wish I had a recording of that exact performance so I could put it on repeat all day, every day.
I won’t even try to describe his music as words would spectacularly fail at doing justice to his talent.
Bio (In Makoto’s Voice)
I was born in Kobe, Japan in 1961 and began playing organ at the age of 2 and started improvising at the age of 7. Appeared on television with my father, Minoru, from 1968 to 1970. At the age of 12 I started to play piano because I heard Oscar Peterson and completely fell in love with his music. I appeared on a few major jazz festivals in Japan as a pianist of a professional Big Band named “Tadao Kitano and Arrow Jazz Orchestra” while attending high school.
In 1980 I entered Berklee College of Music in Boston, majoring in Jazz Compositions and Arranging.
Slowly I started to gig in the Boston area as a student and finally met Gary Burton, who is now the Vice President of Berklee. In 1983 I signed a contract with CBS and released my first self titled album named Makoto Ozone which contains all of my original compositions. At the same time, I joined Gary Burton quartet and started to tour around the world. I had my debut solo piano concert at Carnegie Hall as part of Coal Jazz Festival. I ended up recording three more albums for CBS- After, Now You Know and Spring is Here.
Before I moved to Japan in 1989, I appeared as a guest on other artists’ albums including Paquito D’rivera, Marc Johnson, Chuck Loeb and of course, on Gary Burton’s album as well.
In 1989, I moved back to Japan and signed the contract with JVC. Released 3 CD during that 3 yrs. “Starlight”, “Paradise Wings”, and an album accompanied by a string orchestra entitled “Walk Alone” (these 3 CDs are not available in the U.S. unfortunately.) In 1994, I changed my label again to “VERVE/POLYDOR” and recorded my very first piano solo album named “BREAKOUT”. The 2nd album was accompanied by a couple of great musicians. Peter Erskine on drums, and John Patitucci on bass. (Peter also has played on my other albums “Now You Know”/CBS, and “WALK ALONE”/JVC).
In 1996, I met two extraordinary musicians- bassist Kiyoshi Kitagawa and drummer Clarence Penn, on The Floating Jazz Festival on the S.S. Norway. We immediately went into the studio and recorded an album- The Trio, which won Best Jazz of Japan 1997 award by Swing Journal. We recorded another album with all original compositions of mine called Three Wishes and immediately after this project, recorded an album entitled Dear Oscar, which is a dedication to Oscar Peterson. This album went on to win Best Jazz of Japan Award 1998.
I moved back to New York City and the trio recently recorded a new album entitled No Strings Attached.
Editor’s Note: As of Summer 2014 when I interview Makoto Ozone, he is based in Tokyo, Japan, still touring the world with his new jazz classical fusion music, composing and collaborating with various artists and symphonies.