12 December 1929, Dairen, Manchuria. Born to Japanese parents, Akiyoshi went to live in Japan in 1947, by which time she was already an accomplished, classically trained pianist. Turning to jazz, she soon became one of Japans highest-paid entertainers. After recording for Norman Granz, Akiyoshi followed the advice of Oscar Peterson and moved to America, where she enrolled at Berklee College Of Music. She worked as a member of various small bop groups, including those led by Charlie Mariano (to whom she was briefly married) and Charles Mingus. Although a fleet and inventive pianist who was much influenced by Bud Powell, Akiyoshis greatest interest lay in composing, and in particular she wished to write for big bands. In 1967 a specially assembled big band played pieces by her at a concert in New Yorks Town Hall.
In the early 70s, now resident in Los Angeles, Akiyoshi worked with, and later married, tenor saxophonist Lew...