Akemi Yamada ( stage name “akemi”) is a native of Tokyo, Japan, and was raised in a musical family, surrounded by classical music, Japanese and American pop, and Hawaiian music. At the age of 4, she took up upright piano being influenced by her elder sister, and studied classical piano privately for 10 years. The early exposure to broad range of music helped Akemi develop open ears and excellent musicianship. Initiating her singing career in a broad range of music from rock to R&B, she gained B.A. in Political Science at Gakushuin University, and traveled all over the world, such as Europe, Africa, South America, South-East Asia, India, South Pacific, Australia, and Antarctica to broaden her horizon. Subsequently, her passion in music shifted to jazz, inspired by its beauty of harmony and improvisation. Akemi relocated to the United States in 2003 to pursuit BFA degree in jazz vocal performance at the City College of New York, where she received Israel E. Drabkin Memorial Award, the Pro-Musica Award, and the full scholarship for CIM (Center of Improvisational Music) workshop, and graduated in 2007 Summa Cum Laude. As well as having professional training on jazz vocal performance by legendary Sheila Jordan, and classical vocalist Janet Steele, she studied music theory, jazz harmony and improvisation, composition, and jazz piano, with notable musicians including John Patitucci, Mike Holober, Ray Santos, John Motley, Scott Reeves, and Ray Gallon.
Living in Harlem and jamming with established jazz musicians, Akemi gradually became known as “musician’s singer” for her superb musicianship. In 2007, she recorded her first solo album “With A Song In My Heart” with the leading musicians in the New York jazz scene, and showed her outstanding improvisational skill. Akemi keeps evolving her own approach to jazz singing. While being based on traditional jazz (influenced by Carmen McRae, Chet Baker, and Clifford Brown), she has established her own vocabulary in her singing, improvisation, and writing (arrangements and compositions). Akemi’s music incorporates melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic essence of various music she had been living with, such as contemporary jazz, world jazz (Brazilian and Latin oriented), jazz-house, Japanese traditional music, classical music, gospel, and Japanese pop. Spicing up with her own taste “warm and dreamy”, she has been performing "Akemi's dreamy jazz" actively in the New York City, singing her unique arrangements of jazz / bossa-nova / MPB standards, and her own compositions, while also keeping her basic, straight-ahead(traditional) jazz, depending on the occasions. The musicians she performed with include Helio Alves, Pete McCann, Quincy Davis, Alex Kautz, Ronald Lashley, Greg Ryan, Franco Pinna, Renato Thoms, Matteo Sabattini, Tal Ronen, Ray Gallon, Joseph Lepore, Toru Dodo, Carlton Holmes, Randy Napoleon, Chuck Stevens, and Alex Pryrodny. The venues she performed at include Jazz at Kitano, Drom, The Triad, Shrine World Music Venue, Somethin' Jazz Club, Blue Owl Cocktail Room, Tomi Jazz, Domaine Bar A Vins, and Columbia University, as well as a number of private events and cooperate parties. She also hosted and performed a jazz event for the City College of Technology in Brooklyn (2007). She made a first appearance on a radio in March 2009 for the show “The Jazz Life” at 88.7FM (New York / New Jersey), celebrating “Woman In Jazz Month”, where she was interviewed live and her own composition and signature song "My Journey -Ta Bi Ji-" was air-played. Akemi started touring in Japan regularly since 2009, and performed in major jazz clubs in Tokyo, Sapporo, and Osaka. She will be releasing her new EP “Ta Bi Ji” in the spring of 2015.
Akemi is also a versatile singer. In 2006, she met one of the world’s top flautists in jazz and classical music, Ronald Lashley, and got involved in his “Bossay Lyfe” project. Through this musical friendship, Akemi has absorbed the special ability to blend the world-taste music (mix of Brazilian, Caribbean, R&B, gospel, and classical music) into her own musicality. Ronald Lashley established his own record label Hawthplay Records, LLC in 2014, and Akemi has already performed 3 songs for the Hawthplay Records’ first released compilation album “Christmas Jingles”. Akemi is now getting ready to record her solo album “Bossa Soltice” produced by Ronald Lashley, which will be released by Hawthplay Records in May 2015. Other genres and projects Akemi has been exposed to are the followings: Female vocal group Las Sirenas and Aedea, involving the repertories of European / Asian traditional and contemporary choral music (2003-2006), Harmonia Opera Company with the rendition of a Japanese opera “En Saga” at Merkin Concert Hall as a second principal singer (2008), Voices of Grace as a choir section leader and a soloist at Grace Congregational Church of Harlem, where she performed a series of Negro Spirituals(antique Gospel songs) and standard sacred songs (2008 to current), and First Moravian Church Choir in Manhattan working a section leading role to perform Bach choral music for a special tribute event (2011).