Makiko Hirabayashi – pianist/composer

Makiko Hirabayashi is a Japanese pianist and composer, based in Copenhagen since 1990. She has received wide critical acclaim as a personal voice on the international jazz scene since the release of her first trio album “Makiko” in 2006. Throughout the last two dacades, she has toured extensively across Europe and Asia with her trio featuring Marilyn Mazur (Miles Davis Group, Jan Garbarek Group) and Klavs Hovman, her quartet Weavers and as a solo pianist. 

Makiko’s latest and fifth studio album with her trio is titled Meteora, symbolized by the ancient Greek monasteries built on top of 600m high sandstone formations – seemingly fallen from the sky, or suspended in midair. The music on this album shifts between sensitive, communicative sound web of bizzare beauty and compositions that pull you back to earth with powerful and challenging rhythms. Meteora was listed amongst The Best Albums of 2023 by Downbeat Magazine.

In 2021, Makiko won the prestigious award, Jazz Album Of The Year at Danish Music Awards for her quartet album, Weavers. This quartet features some of the leading figures of the Scandinavian music scene – saxophonist Fredrik Lundin, Swedish bassist Thommy Andersson and drummer Bjørn Heebøll, and sees her expanding her musical universe with a fresh approach. Weavers create genre-transcending music that balances between strong lyricism and abstract soundscapes, keeping the collective, creative force at its core.

Makiko has released nine albums as a leader, including collaborations with the American saxophonist Bob Rockwell and trumpeter Flemming Agerskov. She was the recipient of the Honorary Award from the Danish Composers Association in 2020. As a sidewoman, she plays an active role in numerous projects led by Marilyn Mazur, and has worked with many of Europe’s top notch musicians, including Enrico Rava, Norma Winstone, Nils Petter Molvær and Josefine Cronholm.

Makiko was born 1966 in Tokyo, where she started playing piano at the age of 4. Spending 5 years of her formative years in Hong Kong – a cultural melting pot at the time, has had a lasting impact on her life. At age 20, she won a scholarship to Berklee College of Music in Boston. Her original intention to study film scoring quickly shifted towards improvising and composing on the piano, as she found herself immersed in the live jazz scene of Boston. Since 1990, she has been based in Copenhagen, Denmark. Her multicultural background and musical diversity is reflected in her music. Elements of jazz, classical music, Far Eastern music and Nordic moods are all molded into an intriguing, compelling sound of her own.

Awards/Grants

2021
•  Jazz Album Of The Year for “Weavers” at Danish Music Awards 2021

2020
• Honorary Award from DJBFA (Danish Composers Association)

2020-2024, 2007-2017
• Danish Arts Foundation’s grant for artistic work

2010
• Best Instrumental Album 2009 for “Hide And Seek”
(Jazz Critique Magazine, Japan)

2010
• Jazz Melody Award for title track “Hide And Seek”
(Jazz Critique Magazine, Japan)

1995
• Best Arrangement, Audience Choice Award, 3rd Prize with group, Sisters at Europ’ Jazz Contest, Bruxelles

Japanese Biography