NY Times logo

Provocative and compelling, both in straight out swinging situations and when she is developing fresh ideas for familiar ballads.

John Wilson | The New York Times

Fierce, fascinating composer and pianist… a thoughtful, fresh voice… delicate and articulate… driving and dramatic.”

Leslie Gourse | Jazz Times

Revelatory… reminds you that originality is possible. She’s made her phrasing and touch personal; her lines breathe… Her compositions… are rock solid without a moment of indecision or mistake. Technique is mastered by imagination, inspiration by intellect. She comes to her own conclusions, which is what jazz is all about.

Peter Watrous | Musician Magazine

All About Jazz magazine

Somehow, the encore—like the entire disc—manages to embrace a century of jazz piano while sounding as contemporary as the record’s title: NOW, indeed.

Jeff Dayton-Johnson | All About Jazz

Jazzwise Magazine

Tonooka is dynamic, wellgrounded in the modern keyboard giants, her post-Hancock solo skills and contemporary keyboard voicings are first class, and comping delightful too.

– Jazzwise Magazine

All About Jazz magazine

Tonooka covers a lot of stylistic territory on these two discs, in a perfectly sequenced show, and plays with a rare spirituality and musical sagacity. A superb solo piano outing.

Dan McClenaghan | All About Jazz

USA Today logo

Tonooka’s Trio swings with clear delight and easy grace.

– USA Today

Cuadranos de Jazz magazine

Continually inventive, original, surprising, and a total delight.

Don Hillegas | Cuadranos de Jazz, Madrid

Chicago Reader

Her handful of jazz recordings remain among the most distinctive trio recordings released in the 90′s.

Neil Tesser | The Readers Guide, Critics Choice, Chicago

Cash Box

Tonooka has absorbed the piano tradition of the likes of Bill Evans and Ahmad Jamal and infuses with new vigor.

Lee Jeske | Cash Box, Jazz Feature Picks

The Philadelphia Enquirer

Tonooka opened her set with a crackling interpretation of Thelonius Monk’s “Eronel.” The dispatch with which Tonooka negotiated Monk’s precipitous lines left no doubt that she is among the best of today’s jazz pianists.

At no time did Tonooka sound like a piano solist accompanied by bass and drums. The three instruments were fully interactive… A brilliant performance.

– Francis Davis, the Philadelphia Inquirer

Step Tempest

Playful, melodic, intelligent, emotionally rich.”

Richard Kamens | Step Tempest


Isn’t it ironic that if you’re absolutely inundated with music, the great tracks stand out even more? The other day, an absolutely bloodcurdling modal piano melody made its way through the space here. What was this deceptively simple, chromatically creepy masterpiece? A solo outtake from Frank Carlberg’s Tivoli Trio album? Christopher O’Riley exhuming a rare Bernard Herrmann track? Another Ryan Truesdell discovery of a previously unreleased Gil Evans piece? It could be any of the above, but it’s not. It turned out to be Sumi Tonooka playing her own composition Phantom Carousel, the most viscerally stunning of several originals on her intriguing and often unselfconsciously brilliant new double-disc set, Now…an utterly original player: there is no one who sounds like her. Grounded in the blues but with a flair for the unexpected and an ear for the avant garde, Tonooka includes both sets she played that night, unedited.

Alan Young | Lucid Culture

This was a superlative piano recital, resplendent in versatility, consummate piano artistry, and performed by a brilliant and exciting pianist. Those who were present at the Howland Cultural Center to witness it, were blessed. For the listener who adores being aurally captured by exquisite piano mastery that is dominated by a variety of styles, played with warmth and a constant flow of new ideas; then this two-disc piano recital comes highly recommended.

Cameron Jackman

Throughout the two discs there flows a strong sense of the melodic undertow that has marked Sumi Tonooka’s work across the past two-and-a-half decades. This is music that is not only melodically captivating, but is also intelligent, warm, and a vivid portrayal of how she has embraced much of what has gone before in the history of jazz piano and is helping to keep it alive and flourishing.

Bruce Crowther | Jazz Journal International

She is in every way a modern left of mainstream player but her imagination and keen ear for the interesting line, the interesting chordal spelling puts her in a place apart. A beautiful recital captured in full sound. All who enjoy a fully spontaneus solo piano set will appreciate her mastery which is quite nicely on display for this release.

Greg Edwards

The technically brilliant trio opened with the evergreen “I Hear A Rhapsody”, before the gutsy and sensitive Sumi Tonooka dug into the keys, presenting two spell-binding original compositions: the ballad-like “Shadow Waltz” and the grooving “Taking Time”… Both with very exacting titles such as “Evidence” by Thelonius Monk, and well-known pieces like “Night and Day”, this high-class trio secured its position in the highest echelon through its unusually quick rapport, arrangements that shed new light on standards, and virtuosic improvisations…. A genuine live experience of the highest magnitude!

Gustav Stigg