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Akira Tana

Akira Tana headshot

Courses Taught

Applied Lessons

Jazz Seminar


Akira Tana and Otonowa

TanaReid (1990-1998)


What is your hometown?

Palo Alto

What is your favorite recording?

Speak Like A Child - Herbie Hancock

What are you passionate about outside of music?

Golf and eating great food.

Who were your major teachers?

Alan Dawson, Vic Firth.

What is a favorite quote that you repeatedly tell students?

Play the music!

What question do you wish students would ask sooner rather than later?

“How does one apply technical knowledge to the pursuit of relevant artistic excellence?”

What was a turning point in your career?

Being able to recognize the possibilities of pursuing one's art, realizing the importance of self-expression through music, and still being able to have a meaningful personal relationship and experience raising a family.

If you weren't a musician or teacher, what do you think you would be doing now?

Pursuing religious studies!

What is your daily practice routine?

Working on technical studies and listening to a variety of music.

If you could play only three composers for the rest of your life, who would they be? Why?

Stravinsky - revolutionary and still relevant. Herbie Hancock - compositions span the historical gamut of contemporary jazz styles. Miles Davis - not so much as a composer but an artist who continually evolved.

From a music history perspective, what year and city are most important to you? Why?

New York City, 1946.

Please list your most important collaborations.

With Rufus Reid/TanaReid, Lena Horne, Jimmy Heath.

Please share a quote about you from the press or a musical icon.

April 23, 2019, Contemporary Fusion Reviews by Dick Metcalf “Absolutely invigorating jazz from Japanese American drum maestro Akira that gives you nearly an hour’s worth of stimulating and well-performed jazz! Some of the best jazz I’ve listened to (yet) in 2019, and I give it a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of a (perfect) 5.00 meaning it also gets my “PICK” for ‘best cross-cultural jazz album’.”

What recordings can we hear you on?

Ai San San/Otonowa-Vegamusic-USA 


Looking Forward/ TanaReid Evidence Music

A Good Day For The Blues./ Ruth Brown Bullseye 

Peer Pleasure/Jimmy Heath. Landmark

What is your unrealized project?

To orchestrate for a large ensemble my original compositions.

What was the defining moment when you decided to pursue music as a career?

Having the opportunity to perform with some of the greatest jazz artists as a student.



Born and raised in Northen California, Akira Tana earned degrees from Harvard University and the New England Conservatory of Music. Tana has worked with SONNY ROLLINS, SONNY STITT, ZOOT SIMS, HUBERT LAWS, MILT JACKSON, JIM HALL, ART FARMER, THE PAUL WINTER CONSORT, PAQUITO D'RIVERA, JAMES MOODY, J.J. JOHNSON, LENA HORNE, THE MANHATTAN TRANSFER, RUTH BROWN, CHARLES AZNAVOUR, MAURICE HINES, AND VAN DYKE PARKS. He has appeared on over 200 recordings.
Tana co-led a quintet in the 90's with the bassist, Rufus Reid called TanaReid, and has five releases, "Yours and Mine" and "Passing Thoughts," on Concord Records and "Blue Motion" and "Looking Forward,"and “Back to Front,” on Evidence Music. Tana has seven releases as a leader, among them, "Moon Over the World" and "Secret Agent Men." The third US release as a leader is a project by the Secret Agent Band playing themes from the movies of James Bond, entitled “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” featuring the vocalist, Annie Sellick. A project released in 2018 is “JAZZaNOVA,” on Vegamusic-USA Guest artists include Branford Marsalis and Arturo Sandoval. Three more releases as a leader include “Otonowa,” “Stars Across the Ocean,” and “Ai San San (Love’s Radiance),” which features jazz interpretations of Japanese folk and pop melodies that date as far back as the1800’s. This group has completed seven tours of Tohoku (Northern Japan) performing and teaching for communites still rebuilding from the Earthquake/Tsunamai of 2011. An active teacher and clinician, Tana has taught at Rutgers University, Queens College, Jersey City State College, and New York University, California Jazz Conservatory, and San Francisco State University. He is currently on the faculty of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Mr. Tana is a product endorser of YAMAHA DRUMS, SABIAN CYMBALS, and VIC FIRTH STICKS.
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