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Fukui at the piano, performing at "The Glee"
|Birth name||Ryo Fukui (福居良)|
|Born||June 1, 1948|
Biratori, Hokkaido, Japan
|Died||March 15, 2016 (aged 67)|
Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan
|Associated acts||Matsumoto Hidehiko, Barry Harris, Leroy Williams, Lyle Atkinson, Satoshi Denpo|
Ryo Fukui (福居良 Fukui Ryo, June 1, 1948 – March 15, 2016) was a Japanese jazz pianist based in Sapporo. He played regularly at the "Slowboat" jazz club in Sapporo of which he and his wife Yasuko were the owners. Fukui taught and performed internationally until his death in 2016. His work has seen a spike in popularity during recent years due to it's availability for streaming on youtube as well as the rise of the lo-fi music genre.
Early life and career
1966 - 1980's
Fukui began his life in music by learning accordion at age 18. At the age of 22 he began to teach himself piano and soon moved to Tokyo. Fukui met occasionally with saxophonist Matsumoto Hidehiko who offered valuable encouragement and guidance to the aspiring pianist. Nonetheless, Fukui was often disheartened, feeling as though he was not making significant improvement in his playing. 
Six years after moving to Tokyo, in 1976, Fukui released his first album, Scenery, and his second album, Mellow Dream, the year after. He continued improving his skills over the following years in live performance, often appearing in a trio including Satoshi Denpo, Yoshinori Fukui (Ryo's brother), and himself. The trio would often play at the Shinjuku Pit Inn, Kichijōji "Sometime" jazz club and the "Jazz Inn Lovely" in Nagoya. Fukui also began to perform overseas in France and America as well as beginning to teach jazz piano to students internationally.
1990's - 2015
It was while in America that Fukui had began a friendship with Barry Harris, an american jazz pianist from Detroit, who helped develop Fukui's technique in bebop, a genre in which Ryo would go on to compose his own works. In 1994, a third album, My Favourite Tune, was recorded and released featuring Fukui on solo piano playing several original works as well as renditions of songs such as My Conception by Sonny Clark and After Hours by Avery Parrish. This album was followed by In New York four years later, in trio with the drummer Leroy Williams and the bassist Lisle Arthur Atkinson. Fukui's final album, A Letter From Slowboat was released in 2015-- recorded live during his time at the "Slowboat" jazz club.
Death and Legacy
Fukui died on March 15, 2016 of lymphoma. After his death, his widow Yasuko Fukui has taken over the Slowboat jazz club. Fukui's long time friend Barry Harris wrote a song in honor of Fukui's passing known as Fukai Aijo (深い愛情). Fukui's work is largely celebrated, some even going so far as to call his work "the holy grail of Japanese jazz". With his albums becoming increasingly collectible to vinyl enthusiasts and fans of jazz in recent years, he has not been without criticism with some making the claim that Fukui was merely an "amateur" pianist at best.
In the time after Fukui's death, he had risen to popularity again due to the uploading of his albums on to streaming services such as youtube and as such, it had been discovered that the album My Favorite Tune was quite scarce with very few physical copies ever having been produced. On November 24, 2017, youtube user Marcel The Drunkard had obtained a copy via a contact with Fukui's widow and uploaded it to his youtube channel.
The holy grail of Japanese jazz has finally been found! This album was completely lost for the past twenty years with no known copies out there.
I have been searching for this specific album for over two years, which has brought me into contact with some very cool and diverse people. I had practically given up all hope of ever finding this album, when I received a facebook message a few days ago. Someone had finally found the album through Ryo Fukui's widow, Yasuko.
In any case, all stories of how this album got discovered aside, it's a wonderful piano masterpiece from front to back. It features both some of Ryo's original compositions aswell as covers by other artists. The tone is kept pretty minimal, featuring just Ryo Fukui and his piano. This album was recorded at Lutheran Hall, Sapporo on the 4th and 5th of June 1994.
I hope you'll enjoy this album as much as I do and that the search was worth it. :)— Marcel The Drunkard
Fukui received the Sapporo Culture Encouragement Prize in 2012.
- 1976: Scenery
- 1977: Mellow Dream
- 1994: My Favorite Tune
- 1999: Ryo Fukui in New York
- 2015: A Letter From Slowboat
- 1976: Live at Nika
- "Ryo Fukui - jazz live SLOWBOAT" (in Japanese). September 25, 2013. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
- "Ryo Fukui - My Favorite Tune". November 24, 2017. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
- "Heisei 24-nendo jushō-sha no shōkai" 平成24年度受賞者の紹介 [Recipients of the Heisei 24 Awards] (in Japanese). City of Sapporo. February 15, 2013. Retrieved September 14, 2018.