Yosuke Yamashita is one of Japan’s most respected pianists. He tours constantly and seems to fill up any venue, whether in Japan, the States or Europe. Rather than settling into a comfy niche, though, Yamashita stays in motion, moving easily between bop-inflected romps, intricate modal vamps and cathartic free-jazz flights, while never losing his audience.
Since his international recognition during the 1970s free-jazz movement he has performed all over the world, releasing almost 50 albums and playing on countless others. This 40-year popularity is more remarkable given his uncompromisingly avant-garde style. He not so much pushes the limits as dances back and forth over them. The sheer breadth of his vision, often packed into a single tune, is beguiling. Yet, he always remains listenable, and exciting.
His breathtaking keyboard attacks and innovative musical ideas have matured over the years, but he’s lost nothing of his original drive. In recent years, his long-term trio has hit new levels of interplay. Intriguing collaborations with musicians, such as taiko master Eitetsu Hayashi, have kept his vision fresh and his approach diversified.
Not only does Yamashita play, but he also listens. One of his consistent undertakings is recognizing, and encouraging, younger musicians. He regularly lectures to jazz students, and more importantly, jams with them. For these three nights during Golden Week, he has put together three different groups of the most promising up-and-coming jazz musicians in Tokyo. Yamashita is a master of the modern jazz vocabulary, and its post-modern vernacular, and when he shares the wealth, the club swings, and swings hard.
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