Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
Tonooka, Sumi (Sumi Shizu Morris)
Tonooka holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Philadelphia College of Performing Arts. She studied piano with Bernard Peiffer, Susan Starr, Mary Lou Williams, and Stanley Cowell, and received additional training in piano and composition from Madame Margaret Chaloff of the New England Conservatory of Music. In addition to her jazz recording and performing, she has composed for film and dance.
Her first professional stint at age 18 was with the Philly Joe Jones quartet, Le Grand Prix. From there she went on to perform with such luminaries as Kenny Burrell, Little Jimmy Scott, Sonny Fortune, Red Rodney, Benny Golson and David Fathead Newman.
Japanese-American and African-American by background, Sumi Tonooka writes extended compositions blending Japanese musical instrumentation with jazz. Her 1988 work, "Out from the Silence," for koto, shakuhachi, and jazz ensemble, was commissioned by the Japanese-American Citizens League to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the World War II-era internment of Japanese-Americans. In 1993 a commission from Meet the Composer and an NEA Jazz Fellowship enabled Tonooka to continue exploring new musical territory combining Eastern and Western musical idioms. In December, 1993, this led to the New York premiere of the Taiko Jazz Project, wherein 8 interrelated pieces based on the I Ching were scored to feature taiko master Kenny Endo, together with some of the most highly respected players in jazz. Since then, the Taiko Jazz Project has appeared on both coasts in trio and sextet aggregations.
She now divides her time between composing, teaching, and performing.
With an Open Heart (1990); Taking Time (1991); Here Comes Kai (1992); Secret Places (1998); Kindred Spirits (co-leader with John Blake, Jr.) (2000); Trio recording (2004);
Tonooka and Erica Lindsey (2004)
John Blake, Jr.: A New Beginning (1988); Bobby Zankel: Seeking Spirit (1991); John Blake: The Traveller (2002)
Jazz books, including Living The Jazz Life by Royal Stokes, In The Moment by Francis Davis, and Madame Jazz by Leslie Gourse (all on Oxford University Press).
Bill Minor, Jazz Journeys to Japan (2004)