Ozone grew up in Kobe, Japan, eschewing classical piano lessons in his youth, opting for a life in jazz. The road he’s traveled, however, has now brought him to a point where he has become a celebrated pianist in both jazz and classical music. Lately he has been reexaming his journey. “The more I talk about my life, the more I see that I had no plan or vision,” he says. “I am an improviser.”
Majoring in Jazz composition and arrangement, Makoto Ozone graduated summa cum laude from Berklee College of Music in 1983. The same year, he gave a solo recital at Carnegie Hall in New York City, becoming the first Japanese musician to be exclusively signed to CBS, with the worldwide release of his first album OZONE.
During the early 1980s, Ozone became a globe-trotting jazz composer, pianist, and recording artist. He’s toured and recorded with fellow pianist Chick Corea, clarinetist Paquito D’Rivera, vibraphonist Gary Burton ’62, and saxophonist Michael Brecker, among countless other A-listers. He’s released about 30 albums as the primary artist and composer in solo, duo, trio, and other settings. He has also appeared as a sideman on dozens more jazz recordings.
Whether he’s playing jazz or classical repertoire, it’s apparent to listeners that Ozone is deep inside the music, transported to some other place. His facial expressions and body movements convey a sense of wonder at where the music is taking him. As a pianist, Ozone has something to say. He is authentic in his approach to whatever music he’s playing. His desire to communicate with people through notes is paramount. Musical styles appear as new vistas rather than barriers. In Ozone’s big musical tent, it’s all just music.