Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Moriyasu, Shotaro

Moriyasu, Shotaro, 1924-1955.

Moriyasu graduated from Keio University and, after a brief and unhappy period as a refrigerator salesman, took up music professionally during the Occupation-inspired "entertainment boom" of the late 1940s.  Inspired initially by Teddy Wilson, Moriyasu began to explore Bud Powell's music around 1950 while performing at Yokohama's 400 Club with the Red Hot Boys.  While most other pianists were studying Lennie Tristano and George Shearing, Moriyasu was listening to as many bebop records as he could, often writing down not only melodies but also each instrument's solo part, bass lines, drum fills, and harmonic progressions, resulting in piles of musical scores.  Moriyasu was also a reliable presence at the occasional Yokohama jam sessions that brought Japanese musicians together with American GIs such as Hampton Hawes, Hal Stein, and Walter Benton.  Before long he was regarded as the most studied and advanced bopper in Japan, whose a wesome technique and odd personal habits intimidated many musicians and audiences.  But he found a musical soulmate in tenor saxophonist Akira Miyazawa, resulting in a brief but inspiring period of exploratory musicmaking with the Four Sounds.  Moriyasu's pale, sickly countenance suggested a salaried office worker rather than the hippest pianist in Japan.  The fact that he was recorded only once, in a jam session setting, certainly adds to the mystique surrounding him.  On the rainy night of 28 September 1955, Moriyasu threw himself in front of a train at Meguro station in Tokyo.  The identity of the dead man was not known for five days.  Miyazawa's eulogy in Swing Journal praised a "genius born of effort."

Recordings:
The Historic Mocambo Session '54 (1990)

Bibliography:
UEDA, Sakae, He Played Like a Breeze Through Our Lives: The Life of the Genius Jazz Pianist Moriyasu Shotaro (Soshite, kaze ga hashiri nukete itta: tensai jazu pianisuto Moriyasu Shotaro no shogai) (1997); E. Taylor Atkins, "This Is Our Music: Authenticating Japanese Jazz, 1920-1980," Ph.D. dissertation, University of Illinois, 1997.

BY ATKINS

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