Toshiko Akiyoshi on jazz in the '50s

Now, A Jazz Moment...

MUSIC: early Toshiko

2007 NEA Jazz Master Toshiko Akiyoshi enjoyed an entirely unique experience as a budding young jazz musician in America. Brought here from Japan at age 27 on a full scholarship by Berklee College of Music, she clearly received special treatment.

Toshiko Akiyoshi: Put very bluntly, is Berklee School of Music wanted to use me as advertising school. And because of that I had great press coverage. And I started playing the clubs. From the very beginning I was in a leader situation. I really wanted to be a sideman.

Akiyoshi recalls how different the jazz scene was back in the 1950s...

I remember when I was playing a place like Small's Paradise and you see the same face maybe three, four days a week. And they usually standing at the bar. Drink was under a dollar. No cover charge or anything. Of course our payroll was not quite high as today. But they would come up and say, "Oh you sound good tonight!" Or, "Sound better yesterday!" (laughs) Or things like that.

MUSIC: up and fades under

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

Toshiko Akiyoshi on jazz in the '50s