Japanese jazz guitarist living in Estonia: Ryo Kawasaki

  • 2023-12-04

In 2020, the music world lost the unique virtuoso and experimentalist Ryo Kawasaki 一 the musician passed away at the age of 73. His daughter wrote a touching eulogy on Facebook: "Falling asleep to the sound of you practicing. The smell of black coffee mingled with camel straights. American cheese omelets at Westway and quiche at Le Madeleine. The same song for weeks as you mixed it into perfection. Philosophical arguments that stretched from late nights into the wee hours of a morning saturated by beers and cigarettes. My daddy. A true original. Just as your name suggests, you did illuminate, set it afire, and your fire will burn forever as your music plays on and we continue to carry your light. I love you. Ciao Papa." Her grief was echoed by many fans around the world.

Early years

Ryo Kawasaki was born in Tokyo in 1947. Already from a young age, namely from the age of 5, he was fond of jazz and guitar playing. At the age of 10 he bought a ukulele, and at the age of 14 he got his first acoustic guitar. The album "Midnight Blue" by Kenny Burrell and Stanley Terrentine inspired Ryo's love for jazz. When the musician turned 16, his band played in cabarets and strip clubs.

The guy graduated with a bachelor's degree in quantum physics from Nihon University, and did not give up on music. Ryo also worked in the jury of music competitions, was a music engineer, learned to mix and edit.

The musician worked and studied hard, never losing his passion for music. So we suggest discussing the Japanese contribution to world art at japanese class 一 this is a story about finding oneself in different directions and how art became the basis of human life.

The beginning of his musical career

Ryo released his first solo album entitled "Easy Listening Jazz Guitar" at the age of 22. Already in the first work clearly visible talent and aspiration for great success. A lot of time the musician spent in the studio on recordings of jingles 一 from advertising music to hits. At the beginning of his career, the guy performed on radio and television.

Ryo recorded his second solo album "Toshiba" at the age of 24. It was a period of dating influential musicians: drummer Takeshi Inomata with Sound limits, saxophonist Jiro Inagaki of Soul Mates, saxophonists Keiichiro Ebisawa, Seiichi Nakamura and Hidehiko Matsumoto, pianist Masashiko Sato.

Relocation to New York

After moving to New York in 1973, Ryo Kawasaki plunged into new acquaintances. He changed a lot of boyz bands, where he was constantly invited. He released his debut American album "Juice" in 1976 and became one of the first to sign with the American label RCA. The performer toured with Elvin Jones' band throughout North America, South America and Europe.

In 1978 Kawasaki formed his own band and delved into a new project where he used Indian music, mastered ragas and recorded an album on Audio Fidelity 一 "Ring Toss". It combines eastern and western music.

Inventions by Ryo Kawasaki

Ryo invented his own guitar synthesizer in 1979. A few years later, he formed his rock band The Golden Dragon, which became highly sought after. He played only acoustic guitar with nylon strings and used the synthesizer to record all the parts. The following year he designed the Lucky Lady device.

In the mid-80s, Kawasaki moved away from composing concert music and switched to developing computer music programs, spending 16 hours daily for 2 years. He also acts as a producer of techno recordings and formed his own company, Satellites Records, to record and release them.

Back to jazz

Kawasaki's destiny leads him back to jazz. He starts to work with the new Japanese label of jazz and contemporary music One Voice as a performer and sound engineer.

In 1992 Ryo releases an album in jazz style recorded with acoustic guitar, sold both in Japan and the USA. He enhances his older tracks with a modern sound. The skilled craftsman switches completely between styles, from bop to jazz-rock. His playing is characterized by virtuosity, sometimes rising to hard aggression.

Living and working in Estonia

In the 2000s, Kawasaki unexpectedly moves to Estonia for fans. Here he will live until the end of his days. Ryo recorded the album "Reval" in 2001 in a studio in Tallinn with leading Estonian musicians 一 bassist Toivo Unt, drummer Aivar Vasiliev and Krista Keel (English horn).

Ryo Kawasaki created the jazz ballet Still Point for the Estonian National Opera, participated in jazz festivals in Russia and the Baltic States, and created the jazz fusion band Level 8. Their eponymous album was released in 2017 for the musician's 70th birthday, and in 2019 they released a live album. The musician's discography includes over 30 solo records alone.

Immersing ourselves in the work of Ryo Kawasaki we can trace his search for himself in unique music, get inspired by new styles of performance, admire the experimental approach in the most creative sphere of human activity.