Established by Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation in 1994, the Living Legacy Jazz Award honors living American jazz masters who have contributed to the development and perpetuation of the jazz legacy in the mid-Atlantic region. The award recognizes distinguished performers who have made a special commitment to jazz education, and who have worked to impart his or her unique knowledge of the art of jazz to emerging artists.

Current Living Legacy Jazz Award Honoree

Head shot of Toshiko Akiyoshi. Toshiko is an Asian woman with brown hair cut into a chin length bob with bangs. Her head is turned slightly to the right. She is wearing a black blazer with a soft white v-neck blouse and necklace.Toshiko Akiyoshi

Toshiko Akiyoshi’s interest in the piano started at age six and eventually led to being discovered by pianist Oscar Peterson in 1952 during a Norman Granz Jazz at the Philharmonic tour of Japan. On Peterson recommendation, Toshiko recorded for Granz, and not long after, she went to the U.S. to study at the Berklee School of Music in Boston.

Her years in Boston, and later on in New York, developed her into a first-class pianist. Her interest in composing and arranging came to fruition when she moved to Los Angeles in 1972 with her husband, saxophonist/flutist Lew Tabackin. The following year they formed the world-renowned big band that is now known as the Toshiko Akiyoshi Jazz Orchestra featuring Lew Tabackin. The band, which began as a vehicle for Toshiko’s own compositions, grew in stature during its 10 years on the West Coast and gained a reputation as one of the most innovative big bands in jazz.

Toshiko’s work has been performed by the North Carolina Symphony Orchestra, Hawaii Symphony Orchestra, and Portland Symphony. Toshiko realized a long-time dream in 1996 when she completed her autobiography. “Life With Jazz.” Among the many honors she has received are the Shijahosho, the Japan Foundation Award, Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosetta, the Asahi Award, and New York City’s Liberty Award. Toshiko is a 2007 National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master and her recordings have received a total of 14 Grammy Award nominations.

In 2002, Toshiko retired her big band projects and returned to the piano, touring as a trio and sometimes a quartet with her husband, Lew Tabackin.

This Year’s Event

The BNY Mellon Jazz 2018 Living Legacy Award honoring Toshiko Akiyoshi was presented on Friday, October 19, 2018 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.  Event guests enjoyed a reception in the Kennedy Center Atrium where the BNY Mellon Jazz 2018 Living Legacy Award was presented. Immediately following, guests were treated to a performance of BNY Mellon Jazz 2017 Living Legacy Honoree Odean Pope in the Kennedy Center Jazz Club.The BNY Mellon Jazz 2015 Living Legacy Award sponsored by BNY Mellon Honoring Gary Bartz