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No blues when this pianist rhapsodizes

JAZZ piano legend Makoto Ozone is about to hit Shanghai bringing his own style to the works of Gershwin in a special concert with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra.

His "Rhapsody in Blue" night at the Shanghai Concert Hall on March 29 will see Singaporean conductor Joshua Kang Ming Tan and the local orchestra collaborate on Gershwin's "An American in Paris," "Rhapsody in Blue" and "Concerto in F."

Shanghai audience will remember fondly Ozone's first solo appearance last November when he performed classics by Gershwin, Bernstein, Beethoven and Mozart as well as a selection of modern works at Shanghai Times Square.

Born in Kobe, Japan, in 1961, Ozone was brought up in a musically rich environment and deeply influenced by his jazz pianist father Minoru.

Ozone started playing the organ at a very young age. He appeared on TV at the age of six and performed regularly on Osaka Mainichi Broadcasting when he was just seven. Ozone made his debut as a jazz pianist in 1976 at Wide Wide Jazz, a jazz festival held in Kobe.

Ozone joined and toured with Grammy-winning vibraphonist Gary Burton's quartet. It was about this time that he began his other musical career as composer.

In 2003, he was nominated for a Grammy Award for his album "Virtuosi" (Concord) with Burton.

In recent years Ozone has spent more time focusing on classical music. With international conductors like Charles Dutoit, Alexandre Rabinovitch, Tadaaki Otaka, Eiji Oue and Michiyoshi Inoue, he has played masterworks with the Sinfonia Varsovia, the New Japan Philharmonic, the Sapporo Symphony Orchestra, the Miyazaki International Music Festival Orchestra and the Osaka Philharmonic Orchestra.

At the 18th National Culture Festival in Yamagata in 2003, Ozone played and conducted his own composition, a piano concerto entitled "Mogami." His chamber music performances with violinist Tsugio Tokunaga and violist Masao Kawasaki at the Miyazaki International Music Festival in 2007 were received enthusiastically.

Although deeply committed to his activities as a performer, Makoto Ozone's interests reach beyond the borders of music and he shines in an extraordinary range. He hosts a popular radio program "Oz Meets Jazz" and makes regular television appearances. He produces music for theater and TV dramas, and creates and hosts workshops introducing young children to music.

Like Ozone, the young conductor from Singapore is also creating international interest. The second prize winner at the 2008 Dimitris Mitropoulos International Conducting Competition, Tan enjoys a multi-faceted career as conductor, violinist and educator.

His successful debut with the Singapore Lyric Opera conducting Menotti's "Amahl and the Night Visitors" in December 2005 led to immediate return engagements.

In January 2007, Tan gave the world premiere of Kelly Tang's opera, "Intrigues of the Qing Imperial Court." He was a conducting fellow under Charles Dutoit with the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra and in 2008, under David Zinman at the American Academy of Conducting at Aspen.

Tan is now conductor of the Juilliard MAP Orchestra.

This is the second all-Gershwin concert staged at the Shanghai Concert Hall; in 2001 local jazz singer Tian Guo'an delivered his own Gershwin collection.

"Rhapsody in Blue" is regarded as the classical Gershwin composition for piano and jazz band. Written in 1924, it combines elements of classical music with jazz influences.

"I have performed all of Gershwin's works with orchestras in Japan. Every time I perform them I perform then in a different style," says Ozone. "I believe this time I will surprise the audience with my collaboration with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra."

Date: March 29, 7:30pm

Venue: Shanghai Concert Hall, 523 Yan'an Rd E.

Tickets: 50-150 yuan


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