Virtuoso pianist Makoto Ozone reinvents “Rhapsody in Blue”

Pianist Makoto Ozone

Audience members fortunate enough to witness the New York Philharmonic’s performance of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody In Blue” earlier this winter saw something truly special — an improvisation-fueled reinterpretation that infused the classic orchestral work with fresh life, power, and spontaneity. The catalyst for such a memorable concert? Pianist Makoto Ozone.

Ozone began his musical life in Japan as a self-taught organist and performed on television for the first time at age six. A concert by piano legend Oscar Peterson turned Ozone on to jazz, and studies of jazz composition and arranging at Berklee College of Music in Boston followed. Ozone graduated at the top of his class in 1983, performed a solo recital at Carnegie Hall, and signed an exclusive recording contract with CBS, becoming the first Japanese artist to ever do so.

Just as in his “Rhapsody” performance, Ozone blends a host of influences whenever he plays — he is equally at home performing works by Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein, Mozart and Beethoven, and jazz legends Gary Burton and Chick Corea. Ozone’s genre-blending career regularly takes him around the world; audiences can see him jamming with his jazz trio, leading his Japan-based big band “No Name Horses,” and collaborating with top international orchestras.

Ozone’s talent shines whether he’s playing classical, jazz, or a combination thereof, as shown in this performance with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra:

2018 will be a busy year for Ozone; his upcoming projects include collaborations with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, the Stuttgart Philharmonic, and Chick Corea in Japan. Ozone also plans an international tour with his trio. For more on the artist, visit

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