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Makoto Ozone

About this Artist

“...thrilling, virtuosic, and unabashedly personal” The New York Times 

Makoto Ozone is a unique force in jazz and classical music, blending sound worlds and a host of influences into his performances. Born in Kobe, Japan, he was self-taught in jazz, under his father’s guidance, first on the organ, then piano. He first came to public attention when he gave a solo recital at Carnegie Hall in 1983, following his graduation from Berklee College of Music. Makoto then became the first Japanese artist to sign an exclusive contract with CBS and released his first album, Ozone, a year after his Carnegie debut. 

His stellar career in jazz, which earned him a Grammy nomination in 2003, has brought him regularly to the forefront of the international jazz scene, recording and touring with musicians such as Gary Burton, Chick Corea, Paquito D’Rivera, Anna Maria Jopek, and Branford Marsalis. In 2004, he formed his own big band in Japan: No Name Horses, which has regularly toured Europe, North America, and Asia since its creation. In more recent years, Makoto has expanded into classical repertoire, alongside his jazz engagements. Having first performed Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue in 1996, he now performs concertos by Mozart, Bernstein, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, and Rachmaninoff with major orchestras. Alongside his performing schedule, Makoto composes music, with over 300 pieces to his name, many for No Name Horses, and also a symphony and a piano concerto. 

In 2014, Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic invited Makoto to join their Asian tour. Following this, he performed with the orchestra at Lincoln Center that year and again in 2017, resulting in a recording, Beyond Borders, with performances of Rhapsody in Blue and Bernstein’s The Age of Anxiety. He has collaborated with a prestigious list of other conductors including François-Xavier Roth, Marin Alsop, Carlos Miguel Prieto, Lahav Shani, Thomas Zehetmair, and Charles Dutoit and orchestras including the San Francisco Symphony, and São Paulo Symphony, as well as many orchestras in Japan, such as the NHK Symphony Orchestra, Tokyo Metropolitan Orchestra, and Sapporo Symphony. 

Recent highlights include performances with the NDR Elbphilharmonie under the baton of Alan Gilbert and the Stuttgarter Philharmoniker with Dan Ettinger. In the upcoming season, he will perform with the National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra with Jun Markl, as well as performing with his jazz trio in New York. 

Makoto Ozone has an extensive discography, releasing more than 30 albums under his name and as a composer in solo, duo, and trio settings, as well as performing as a collaborator on many others. His many awards include the Kinokuniya Theatre Award (2000), Kobe City Culture Award (2005), Fumio Nanri Prize (2007), Hyogo Prefecture Culture Award (2009), and the Art Encouragement of Education, Culture, Sports, Science Minister’s Prize (2014). In 2018, Makoto received the Medal of Honor with Purple Ribbon from the Government of Japan: this is the nation’s highest award to individuals who have made significant contributions to its academic or cultural life.