Solo Piano: Giant Steps:
Long Ago Today:
Sumi Tonooka has been called a “fierce, fascinating composer pianist” (Jazz Times), “provocative and compelling” (New York Times), and “continually inventive, original, surprising, a total delight,” (Cuadranos de Jazz, Madrid). With fifteen recordings to her name and a vast catalogue of compositions and award winning works in genres symphonic, chamber, dance, and film, Tonooka continues to be a creative force.
Most recently, Tonooka is a very recent recipient of a Pew Fellowship, an honor that speaks to her talent and consistent high level of work over a career spanning over five decades. She was a finalist in the Emerging Black Composers Project, composing her fourth symphonic work this time for the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in December 2022, which premiered in SF in Feb 2023. She is also a 2021 recipient of the Doris Duke Creative Inflections Grant as a co-creator with vocalist/composer, Jen Shyu for In The Green Room, a multi- disciplinary music production inspired by the stories of women in Jazz. Other recent awards include, Chamber Music America’s New Jazz Works grant (2019) and Composer in Residence with the South Dakota Symphony through the New Music Alive Residency, New Music USA. Her first symphonic work “Full Circle” was performed by the American Composers Orchestra in NYC in 2013, through the Jazz Composers Orchestra Intensive, a program that was created through Columbia University, UCLA, Herb Albert School of Music and Doris Duke to support and foster new works for Orchestra by Jazz composers.
In her solo piano recording, NOW, "Tonooka covers a lot of stylistic territory in a perfectly sequenced show, and plays with a rare spirituality and musical sagacity. A superb solo piano outing" (All About Jazz). Her 2009 recording, Initiation (2009 ARC Records, with tenor saxophonist Erica Lindsay), garnered an “Honorable Mention” in the 2010 Village Voice Jazz! Critic’s Poll. Recording often in trio or quartet with such noted jazz stalwarts as bassist Rufus Reid and drummers Lewis Nash and Bob Braye, Tonooka characteristically blends her own! compositions with highly personal readings of jazz standards.
Her recent recordings include a third release “Afrika Love” with Alchemy Sound Project, a composer-led ensemble, founded by Tonooka. This band brings together five combustible sound chemists composer bandleaders with powerful voices in jazz and orchestral work. In the Alchemy Sound Project, the composers create original works that weave together the intricate expansiveness of orchestral writing and jazz improvisation. As a professional response to an inherent void within the music industry, Tonooka, along with alto saxophonist Chris Burnett and tenor saxophonist Erica Lindsay, co-founded the Artists Recording Collective (ARC), an internationally recognized brand and professional recording label.