26 February 1942, Tokyo, Japan. Although he had played professionally at the age of 17, pianist Yamashita went on to study at the Kunitachi College of Music (1962-67). He established himself playing in the quartets of Masahiko Togashi and Sadao Watanabe. The earliest influence of Bill Evans soon gave way to the influence of Cecil Taylor. When Yamashita formed his own trio with Akira Sakata (alto saxophone) and Takeo Moriyama (drums) and toured Europe (1974) the music was so wild the group was known as the Kamikaze Trio. For inspiration Yamashita looked back to the beginning of jazz - Europe had the system but Africa had all the feeling. All the material I use belongs to the system, but as long as I can stand on the outside and approach things from the outside, I will never be suffocated. He kept a trio going throughout the 70s and continued to play as a sideman with the bands of Kazumi Takeda (tenor saxophone) and Seuchi Nakamura (tenor saxophone). From 1974 he made regular trips to Europe with the trio in Germany as well as playing with Manfred Schoof (1975), then as a soloist and in 1977 in a duo with bass player Adellard Roidinger. He disbanded the trio in 1983 when he felt that he had achieved as much as he could in that format. Yamashita formed a big band with an eclectic style and performed in many varied situations including solo performances of his own versions of classical pieces, playing with Kodo, a Japanese drum choir, and having pieces performed by the Ozaka Philharmonic Orchestra. During the 90s he was again playing and touring with a trio, comprising Cecil McBee and Pheeroan Ak Laff. Yamashita also composes for films including Fazâfakkâ (UK title: The Girl Of Silence) (1995), Kanzo Sensei (UK title: Dr. Akagi) (1998) and Sukedachi-ya Sukeroku (UK title: Vengeance For Sale) (2001). From 2004 he was visiting professor at Tokyos Kunitachi College of Music.
Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.