“A musical impressionist and supreme colorist” (Hot House Magazine) aptly characterizes the Japanese-born composer Asuka Kakitani. At the forefront of Brooklyn’s burgeoning big band scene, Kakitani has attracted some of New York’s finest jazz artists with her adventurous, melodically charged charts. Asuka was selected as a 2013 DownBeat Critic Poll Rising Star Arranger six months after her 18-piece Asuka Kakitani Jazz Orchestra (AKJO) made a stunning debut with Bloom on Nineteen-Eight Records. The album was featured on the international radio program PRI’s The World, depicting Bloom as “full of complicated harmony . . . but it also makes room for simplicity.” Other accolades include Jazz Wax’s Marc Myers saying “Kakitani and her ideas and pen are the real deal;” while DownBeat Magazine described Bloom as having “sumptuous positivity and organic flow (★★★★);” and All About Jazz called it “absolutely superb.”
The images of nature that are often the inspiration for Kakitani’s works are clearly felt by many of her listeners, including The International Review of Music who illustrates how “Beams of light shimmer and shine while notes take flight.” WEMU’s Linda Yohn continues the imagery with: “Colors, texture and sensations weave in and out of [Kakitani’s] pieces with endless variety – reflective of our natural world.” In addition to her own works on Bloom, Kakitani’s rejuvenation of two Japanese children’s songs are heard as portraying “original ideas and clarity of style” (Jazz Tokyo) filtered through the language of her distinct harmonic and melodic concept which is “luminous, lush and symphonic” (Lucid Culture).
Kakitani founded her orchestra in 2009, featuring some of the most creative musicians in New York City, including Mark Ferber, Jason Rigby, John O’Gallagher, Pete McCann, John Bailey, Sara Serpa, and more. AKJO has been performing her music in venues in the New York City area such as Drom, ShapeShifter Lab, Bowery Poetry Club, St. Peter’s Church, and regularly at Tea Lounge as a part of the “Size Matters” Large Ensemble Series. Her awards include the BMI Charlie Parker Jazz Composition Prize, the Manny Albam Commission, and Composer Assistance Grants from the American Music Center in 2009 and 2010.