Remembering Ryo Kawasaki

February 25, 1947 – April 13, 2020

 

A tribute to the talented jazz guitarist

Guitarist Ryo Kawasaki passed away on April 13, 2020 at the age of 73.

He was born on February 25, 1947 in Tokyo, Japan, played violin for two years, ukulele when he was ten, and switching to the guitar at the age of 15 where he was initially inspired by Wes Montgomery.

While in high school he played his first gigs, often backing singers.

Kawasaki earned a degree in Quantum Mechanics in 1969 from Nippon University but switched his focus to music, making his recording debut and working as both a sound engineer and a studio musician.

He moved to New York in 1973 and soon joined the Gil Evans Orchestra, being featured on Evans’ recorded tribute to Jimi Hendrix.

During 1973-78, in addition to working regularly with Evans at the Village Vanguard, Kawasaki played regularly with Chico Hamilton, Elvin Jones’ Time Machine, the fusion band Tarika Blue, Dave Liebman, Joanne Brackeen and his own group.

Best known as a major fusion guitarist but equally skilled on acoustic guitar, Kawasaki led his own bands (including The Golden Dragon) for years, invented his own guitar synthesizer in 1979 (which he used in solo shows), founded the Satellites label, and playing creative music in Japan, the United States and quite frequently Estonia and Russia.

Here is Ryo Kawasaki in 1996 performing his “Nite And Day” with the Golden Dragon which also includes keyboardist Ray Naccari, bassist Lincoln Goines, drummer Victor Jones, and Everalo Brown on congas.

– Scott Yanow

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