"Every four or five years you run into a young player who is obviously a major talent," says vibraphonis Gary Burton of 23-year-old Japanese pianist Makoto Ozone. Burton, who produced the young pianist's American debut album on Columbia Records, brings his quartet to The Barns at Wolf Trap Saturday night. Ozone will be at the piano, Burton's longtime musical associate Steve Swallow on bass and Mike Hyman at the drums.
"My father had told me about jazz being popular in Japan before World War II," says Ozone, "but once the war got under way, jazz went underground because all western music was banned and we were forbidden to use the words "baseball" or "jazz.""
The young Ozone began classical studies at the age of 12 and two years later broke his left arm. While convalescing, he discovered jazz through the recordings of Oscar Peterson. "I must have had 50 of his albums, and being forced to develop my technique myself, it came out of Oscar. Two years of studying on my own helped me get my chops together."
At 16, the Kobe native was playing throughout Japan with one of the country's most highly regarded big bands. Since arriving in the United States four years ago to study at Boston's Berklee School of Music, he has performed with Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey, Burton and others. He remains "amazed at how you can do without rules" in jazz" and plans to make his home in Boston. "In Japan people tend to go to a concert because the performer has a big name, not always for the sheer love of the music."