Born: October 12, 1946 Primary Instrument: Guitar
Born in Tokyo, Japan on October 12 1946 as a son of a jazz band leader and pianist, Yoshiaki Masuo grew up surrounded by jazz music, although he never had any formal musical training. At the age of 15, he started playing the guitar on his own. Prominent among his early influences were Wes Montgomery and Grant Green.
While in Waseda University Jazz Club, Masuo was discovered by alto saxophonist Sadao Watanabe, and joined his group at the end of 1967. Masuo thus started his professional career on top as a regular of Japan's leading jazz group. He was in the group for three years, and experienced tours outside of Japan with Sadao, playing at Montreux and Newport jazz festivals. He was 1970's number one guitarist in the readers' poll of Swing Journal, Japan's most popular jazz magazine. He won the readers poll in the following years even after leaving Japan, five times in total.
Masuo moved to New York City on June 13, 1971. There he played with Teruo Nakamura, Lenny White, Michael Brecker, Chick Korea, Elvin Jones (Masuo took part in the recording of Merry Go Round) . He also played as a regular of Ashford and Simpson. In 1972, he was a member of Lee Konitz's group.
In the spring of 1973, he joined the Sonny Rollins group. He was with Sonny three years the first time and three years more from 1981. He toured with the group all over the United States as well as Japan and Europe. He participated in the recording of five Rollins' albums including The Cutting Edge (of the five, one is released in Japan only, and another in Europe).
Between the two periods of his playing with Sonny Rollins, Masuo toured with Elvin Jones in Europe, played with Larry Young, and formed his own electric fusion group. He recorded his fourth leader album in 1977 for the newly-established Electric Bird label (King Records of Tokyo). Released the next year as the label's first issue, this album turned out to be a remarkable success. He continued to make fine jazz fusion albums one after another over the following several years, winning new fans. He made tours with his own band in Japan and on the West Coast of the U.S., as well as appearing sometimes in NYC night clubs including Seventh Avenue South and Mikell's. On one tour in Japan, Jan Hammer played with him as a special guest.
After the second period with Sonny Rollins' group in the mid 80s, Masuo acquired his own studio in Soho in NYC, and there he began experimenting with electronic instruments to create sound all by himself. This took shape as an album titled Masuo, on which he not only played but also did the roles of composer, arranger, engineer and mixer. This was released in May, 1989. A couple of years before this release, his owning a studio happened to make him get involved as a producer of recordings for JazzCity (and later JazzCity Spirit) for a Japanese record company. He produced dozens of albums over the next ten years. As he got deeply into production, his career as a musician was virtually put on hold. He struggled to get back to playing, and finally made a come back as a musician, with his album Are You Happy Now. This album was released initially in Japan in December 1998, and then worldwide in November 1999 by Sunnyside. Now Masuo is back in full gear as a musician as well as a producer.