Masahiko Satoh

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Masahiko Satoh
Birth nameMasahiko Satoh (佐藤允彦, Satoh Masahiko)
Born (1941-10-06) 6 October 1941 (age 77)
Tokyo, Japan
Occupation(s)Musician, composer, arranger
Years activeLate 1950s–present

Masahiko Satoh (佐藤 允彦, Satō Masahiko, born 6 October 1941) is a Japanese jazz pianist, composer and arranger.

Early life[edit]

Satoh was born in Tokyo on 6 October 1941.[1] His mother was Setsu and his father, who owned small businesses, was Yoshiaki Satoh.[2] The house that his family moved into in 1944 contained a piano; Masahiko started playing it at the age of five.[2] He began playing the piano professionally at the age of 17,[2][3] "accompanying singers, magicians and strippers at a cabaret in the Ginza district".[2]

Later life and career[edit]

By 1959 Satoh was playing in Georgie Kawaguchi's band, together with alto saxophonist Sadao Watanabe and tenor saxophonist Akira Miyazawa.[2] Satoh graduated from Keio University.[4]

At the age of 26, Satoh moved to the United States to study at the Berklee College of Music.[5] He stayed for two years,[3] during which he read about composing and arranging.[2] He earned money working in a food shop and playing the piano in a hotel.[3] In 1968 he wrote the music for, and conducted, a series of pieces that were combined with dance and performed in New York.[6] After returning to Japan, he recorded Palladium, his first album as leader, and appeared on a Helen Merrill album.[4]

In his early career in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Satoh played in a free, percussive style.[7] Satoh played at the 1971 Berlin Jazz Festival as part of a trio; he used a then-unusual ring modulator to alter the sound.[8] Also in the early 1970s, he recorded with Attila Zoller, Karl Berger, and Albert Mangelsdorff.[4] He wrote the psychedelic music for the 1973 anime film Belladonna of Sadness.[9]

Satoh has written arrangements for recordings led by, among others, Merrill, Kimiko Itoh, and Nancy Wilson.[4] He also arranged for strings and quartet on Art Farmer's 1983 album Maiden Voyage.[4]

In 1990 Satoh formed a large group, named Rantooga, that combined various forms of folk musics from around the world.[10] In the early 1990s he composed music for a choir of 1,000 Buddhist monks.[11] In the early 1990s he was reported as stating that 70% of his time was spent on arranging and composing, and the rest on playing and recording.[2]


Satoh has composed for film, television and advertisements.[2] For instance, he made the music of Kanashimi no Belladonna, a film in which the sound is very important ; all the songs of this movie are performed by his wife, Chinatsu Nakayama.

Some of his compositions are influenced by the space in the works of composer Toru Takemitsu.[12] Satoh has also composed for traditional Japanese instruments, including the shakuhachi and biwa.[13]


An asterisk (*) after the year indicates that it is the year of release.

As leader/co-leader[edit]

Year recorded Title Label Notes
1969* Palladium Trio, with Yasuo Arakawa (bass), Masahiko Togashi (drums)
1970 Astrorama Liberty Co-led with Jean-Luc Ponty. Quintet, with Ponty (keyboards, vocals), Yoshiaki Masuo (guitar), Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen (bass), Motohiko Hino (drums)
1985 Amorphism Epic Sony Trio, with Eddie Gomez (bass), Steve Gadd (drums)
1985 As If... Nippon Columbia Trio, with Eddie Gomez (bass), Steve Gadd (drums)
1988 Double Exposure Epic Sony Trio, with Eddie Gomez (bass), Steve Gadd (drums)
2002–03 Masahiko Plays Masahiko Ewe Solo piano
2005 Voyages BAJ Co-led with Joelle Leandre (bass); in concert
2007 Nyozegamon Ohrai Solo piano
2007 Rocking Chair BAJ Solo piano
2009 Summer Night Studio Songs Solo piano
2010 Afterimages BAJ Duo, with Je Chun Park (percussion)
2011 Edo Gigaku BAJ Trio, with Shinichi Kotoh (bass), Hiroshi Murakami (drums)
2011 Yatagarasu Not Two Co-led with Peter Brötzmann (alto sax, tenor sax, tárogató, clarinet), Takeo Moriyama (drums); in concert
2013 Spring Snow PNL Co-led with Paal Nilssen-Love (drums, percussion); in concert
2013 Doushin Gigaku BAJ Trio, with Shinichi Kotoh (bass), Hiroshi Murakami (drums)
2013 Serendip BAJ Duo, with Pradeep Ratnayake (sitar)
2017 Miku Hatsune sings Osamu Tezuka and Isao Tomita Nippon Columbia A serie of arrange and remixes of Isao Tomita's compositions for Osamu Tezuka's works sung by Miku Hatsune

As sideman[edit]

Year recorded Leader Title Label
1971 Helen Merrill S'posin Storyville
1973 Anthony Braxton Four Compositions (1973) Denon
1985 Eddie Gómez Mezgo Epic
2003 Joëlle Léandre Signature Red Toucan[14]
2011 Peter Brötzmann Long Story Short Trost
2012 Ken Vandermark and Paal Nilssen-Love Extended Duos Audio Graphic


  1. ^ "Masahiko Satoh". AllMusic. Retrieved 9 December 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Schofield, John (8 October 1991), "Pianist Infuses Jazz with Japanese Spirit", The Wall Street Journal, p. A20.
  3. ^ a b c Minor 2004, p. 46.
  4. ^ a b c d e Iwanami, Yozo; Sugiyama, Kazunori "Sato, Masahiko". The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz (2nd ed.). Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 24 February 2015. (Subscription required).
  5. ^ Minor 2004, pp. 45–46.
  6. ^ "Library Programs Include Art Talks" (12 May 1968), The New York Times, p. 53.
  7. ^ Minor 2004, p. 49.
  8. ^ Minor 2004, pp. 46–47.
  9. ^ Brenner, Robert (4 May 2016) "Movie Review: Belladonna of Sadness". Huffington Post.
  10. ^ Minor 2004, pp. 49, 51.
  11. ^ Minor 2004, pp. 54–55.
  12. ^ Minor 2004, pp. 49–50.
  13. ^ Minor 2004, p. 54.
  14. ^ Shoemaker, Bill (April 2003) "Joelle Leandre/Masahiko Satoh/Yuji Takahashi". JazzTimes.
  • Minor, William (2004). Jazz Journeys to Japan: The Heart Within. University of Michigan Press. ISBN 978-0-472-11345-3.