The final album released by Ryo Fukui shortly before his passing in 2016, “A Letter From Slowboat,” was named after the jazz club he and his wife started in his home city of Sapporo on Hokkaido Island in Japan. The Slowboat has been open since 1995 and would be home to countless numbers of Fukui’s performances.
After WWII and the cultural embargo set by the Japanese empire, a growing interest in jazz music grew in Japan, capturing the hearts of many including Ryo Fukui. The self-taught pianist from Sapporo, Ryo would begin releasing his jazz in the mid-70s. American jazz artists he grew up loving were moving more towards jazz-fusion due to a decline in mainstream popularity. However, jazz in Japan was still as popular as ever, allowing Ryo to create some of the best hard-bop and straight jazz of the decade. Many overlooked his contributions until the 2010s when internet algorithms and recommendations proliferated his music online. After his passing in 2016, his music saw a spike in popularity which would spark a niche interest in Japanese jazz.