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Shoko Celebrates Her 50th Anniversary Singing Career

Dinner at: 11:30AM
Doors Open at 10:30AM

n/a $39.50

Shoko Amano

Jazz singer and recording artist Shoko Amano has been thrilling audiences around the world for nearly five decades and shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon. To date, Amano has recorded six albums, all of which have included the stellar lineup of Norman Simmons on piano, Paul West on bass and Frank Wess on woodwinds. Amano is hard at work on a new record, slated for release in winter 2020.

Amano’s upcoming Performance at the Blue Note will celebrate the 50th year of her singing career.

Born in Tokyo, Japan, Amano’s earliest exposure to the music that she would become so passionate about came at three or four years old. Her father, a cook on a U.S. Army base, often played jazz records in their home. Still, as a teenager, she was interested primarily in R&B and American pop. But once she heard what is perhaps Sonny Rollins’s most enduring album, “Saxophone Colossus,” she had an epiphany. She realized that a song’s freshness was limited only by the artist’s imagination. Her obsession with jazz had begun.

Her success as a winner on Japan’s version of “American Idol” (“Anata Deban Desu”) – for ten weeks in a row—played a major role in launching her singing career. Later, as the lead singer of a Japanese group called Beat Shop, she opened for the Three Degrees and for R&B singer Freda Payne (“Band of Gold”). Both of these appearances convinced her that there was something going on, in the American music scene and she wanted to become a part of it.

After a short stint in Taipei and Hong Kong, where she performed with various pop and R&B groups, Amano moved to America in 1974.There she joined a jazz septet in Los Angeles who were blown away by her take on “All of Me” at an audition. She studied voice there with Carl Jones of the Delta Rhythm Boys and sang at venues like the Jazz Pot and the Playboy Club. Amano lived in Chicago for a short time in the early 80s, where she landed gigs at jazz spots like The Moosehead through her association with the late Joe Pass.

In New York, she has made special appearances at jazz landmarks like the Blue Note, Eddie Condon’s and world famous performance spaces like Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, where she sang with the Frank Wess Orchestra. It is no wonder that jazz legends like Wess himself, Grady Tate, Louis Nash and Rufus Reid have chosen to work with her.

But what is it exactly about Ms. Amano that jazz audiences from New York to Brazil to Japan connect with? “For me, [Shoko Amano] is the most resilient, individual, engaging vocalist from Japan, the ichiban (number-one) singer” writes William Minor in his book Jazz Journeys to Japan: The Heart Within. The late jazz writer Leslie Gourse, once described Amano’s signature sound as “soft and malleable—ideally suited for jazz,” and called her improvisations, “surprising and fresh.”

“I like a very acoustic sound, like in the 1950s, she says. “These days, people like a lot of technique, which is good. But feeling and being able to touch the listener is more important to me.”


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