Toshiko Akiyoshi on forming a big band

Now, A Jazz Moment...

MUSIC: "Long Yellow Road" CD: Hiroshima- Rising From the Abyss, True Life Jazz TLJ 1000082 (cut 1)

Big bands -- once the favorite ensemble of jazz -- are becoming a rare commodity today. An even greater rarity is to find one led by a diminutive Japanese woman! 2007 NEA Jazz Master Toshiko Akiyoshi first assembled her big band in 1974.

Toshiko Akiyoshi: There are many, many reasons that I really wanted to have a large ensemble in a sense because it's not enough for me to improvise tunes. You know, I would like to be able to convey my story, my thought on a certain subject. Then, first rehearsal I felt that's probably what I would like to do because I needed more color.

MUSIC: up for feature, then fade under

Akiyoshi strives for a certain gutsiness and sense of swing in her writing.

Writing you can take all the time you need. And there's no excuse for being mediocre because you can fix it. People always say what do you think your best quality? I think God gave me a sense of judgement.

MUSIC: up and fades

This Jazz Moment with pianist and bandleader Toshiko Akiyoshi was created by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Toshiko Akiyoshi on forming a big band