Thursday, October 30, 2014

Omni Guitar Series: Kazuhito Yamashita

Last Friday night was the first concert of the Omni Guitar Series in San Francisco, Kazuhito Yamashita was the artist. Kazuhito is a friend for many years, and a few months ago he emailed to ask for a guitar to borrow for this concert. I guess he didn't want to travel with his regular guitar. He got to town on Sunday and I loaned him 3 guitars to try out, a spruce Signature, a cedar Signature, and a 630 7/8 size cedar Performance. We got together midweek for dinner and guitar stuff, and it was beautiful to listen to him try out the guitars and talk about them, but I had no idea what he would do in concert, which one he would play — if any, no idea.

Friday night was also the first World Series home game for the Giants, and there was some concern about concert attendance competition from the game, but it worked out fine. The SF Conservatory concert hall was quite full, and I still didn't know which guitar he was going to play. Then as it turned out, he played all three. I was kind of stunned. He played music by Bach, Sor, Mompou, and his wife Keiko Fujiie and by his daughter Kanahi Yamashita, plus several encores that I couldn't name. The range of style and mood and technique was expansive, so beautiful, so thoughtful.

His playing is in a class of its own, in a world of his own. He is legendary for playing arrangements and compositions and collections on a technical level that couldn't be possible, but he does it with both ease and intensity unlike anyone else. His performance is orchestral, from the most tender to the most ferocious, he commands the music and the instrument effortlessly, I soaked up every note. My wife pointed out that the way he moves with the guitar, he fans the guitar in front of him, spreading out the music before the audience like a gift. I've heard him play a few times and I never know what to expect. This was a program so beautifully expressive and inclusive, I will never forget it.

I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to hear him again, and for his generosity in playing these guitars and putting them through their paces. I was humbled to have the instruments in his hands and to hear how effectively they served his purposes. I learned so much listening to him control and play with the guitars, this is what they are meant to do, and they sure enough did it. He had the two Signature guitars for only a few days, and he played the little 630 for the first time during sound check just before the concert. This guy can do anything. Kazuhito is an enigmatic person, smart, quiet, confident, profound and generous. This was a lifetime experience, and I'm very honored to know him.

Kenny Hill
October 2014