Stomu Yamashita

This exceptional percussionist was unfortunately hampered by external influences and international opportunities. Yamashita spent his childhood under the watchful and nurturing eyes of his father, the leader of Kyoto Philharmonic Orchestra. His early recordings were a huge success and he was offered numerous opportunities to work in Europe, especially Paris and London. Yamashita’s percussion-only LP RED BUDDHA, which was released by the French Barclay and British Records in late 1971, was ready for release. However, he had to change the last element of his name because it sounded too similar to’shitter’. Yamashita was renamed and signed to Island Records, where he led his all-English jazz-rock band, Come to the Edge. Pert is the percussionist. Yamashta’s band and record label decided to make it all downhill. They chose to promote him as ‘The man from the East’, an exotic freak whose protoRick Wakeman-esque garb and dervishlike agility were secondary to the chuntering of his unremarkable group. The twenty-minute gagaku-style epics, the soaring percussion attacks punctuated with Masahiko Satoh’s visionary atonal brass arrangements and the captivating Takehisa Kosugi-informed dronea-thons of Yamash’ta’s early career are gone. All of this was considered too monolithic to appeal to British ears. Each subsequent LP released further integrated the boy wonder into UK Jazz Rock. Yamashta’s genius was diluted to the multi-media spectacles RAIN DOG AND GO in 1975. These LPs featured such unlikely guests like Steve Winwood, Al Di Meola, and Santana drummer Michael Shrieve. Yamashita was eventually disowned by his altered public persona. He moved to a Buddhist temple and then returned to creating the kind of meditational music that his Ur-muse fans should have expected. Julian Cope’s “Japrocksampler”.

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