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Summer Festival!! Presents: BIG YUKI Sessions
BIG YUKI - keys
Randy Runyon - guitar
Timothy Lamont Smith Jr - drums
Thomas Pridgen - drums
Masayuki Hirano - better known as BIGYUKI - is a ground-breaking songwriter and virtuoso keyboard player who blends jazz, soul, hip-hop and electronica to create a sound that's wholly his own. Alongside releasing his own inimitable music, BIGYUKI is highly sought-after as a performer and collaborator by the likes of A Tribe Called Quest, Kamasi Washington and Lauryn Hill. "I made my name as a session player in New York, where I was known for keeping my feet in every genre that I love," he explains. "My own music is a collage, but it definitely has a groove. I want my music to stimulate your mind and move your lower body."
He was classically trained as a pianist from a young age, performing publicly and winning national awards, but what he really remembers from that time is his first intoxicating taste of how it feels to create music out of silence. "I would experience a hyper-focused mode," he recalls. "It would feel like I was really in the moment, but at the same time like there was another 'me' watching over me. I guess people say you're 'in the zone', but I didn't have the words for it when I was young. I knew I wanted to tap into this world as much as I could, and that music was my medium."
One early break came at a late night jam session where acclaimed drummer Daru Jones was so impressed by his ability on the keys that he invited BIGYUKI to join the band he was putting together for Talib Kweli. A string of successful live shows and jam sessions meant BIGYUKI's reputation as a session musician was growing, while at the same time he was starting to hone an individual sound he could call his own. In October 2015 he put out his debut solo EP, the eclectic and experimental 'Greek Fire'. In 2016 he spent two months as a member of Jon Batiste's house band on 'The Late Show with Stephen Colbert' and played on J. Cole's album '4 Your Eyez Only'. That same year he also played on and wrote for A Tribe Called Quest's final record 'We Got It from Here... Thank You 4 Your Service'.
In November 2017 BIGYUKI released his debut album 'Reaching For Chiron', a rich and varied collection of music that connects the dots between experimental jazz, soulful funk and deep hip-hop beats. The remarkable album features guest vocals from singers including Bilal and Abbey Smith, who also appeared on the A Tribe Called Quest record, and is named for the wisest centaur in Greek mythology. BIGYUKI's ability to absorb and reflect what's going on in the world through his music is particularly evident on his latest EP, '2099', which features a guest spot from Talib Kweli and was released at the very end of 2020.
Having toured with Kamasi Washington's band in 2019 and played in Lauryn Hill's band at the Louis Vuitton Men's Spring-Summer 2021 show, BIGYUKI is itching to get back to performing live regularly once the world opens up. Until then, he says he's found himself returning to his first love: the piano, his "big wooden toy". "Now that it's hard for me to assemble my band, I've been reconnecting with playing piano," he says. "I started off trying to see if I'm musically strong enough to express something through just playing piano by myself. I see a lot of potential in that. I feel like it can be a very fun journey for me, and a new stream of my musical expression."