2019’s Young Guitarist of the Year - in association with Ernie Ball - Yamato Mori blew away judges during his final performance at the UK Guitar Show in late-September.
Yamato’s category was extremely competitive. There were hundreds of entries and our final three, completed by UK finalist Joey Bissell and US finalist Liam Garcia, all gave superb performances. Among this stiff competition, Yamato stood out thanks to his incredible ear for dynamics, formidable technique and the emotive narrative turns of his composition Eureka.
“I’m so happy!” Yamato tells us. “I was [definitely] apprehensive... I was the third performer and I was very nervous after listening to the wonderful performances of the previous two.”
It’s understandable, we reckon. Yamato speaks very little English, flew half-way around the world to play in a foreign country and had to do so in front of a panel of judges that included editors from Guitarist, Guitar World and Guitar Techniques, plus Brazilian six-string sensei Lari Basilio.
It’s a far cry from his day-to-day life – and yet that is the joy of the Young Guitarist of the Year competition, the sense that these is a player who can knock your socks off sitting unknown in every corner of the world.
“My cousin played a guitar and that was how I started,” explains Yamato. “Plini is also an inspiration for me – he tells a story with his music, which is what I try to do.”
You can hear that storyline in Yamato’s playing, particularly in Eureka. It’s a mark of some serendipity then that Plini was one of the celebrity judges, alongside Rabea Maassad and Nita Strauss, who helped pick Yamato for the final. We don’t reveal all the judges ratings, but we will reveal that Plini gave him top marks for his musicality.
“He is making a world with creative ideas,” says Yamato about his hero. “And he sounds really epic.”
While Plini is undoubtedly an influence, there is no shortage of Yamato’s own personality and soul in his music. For a guitarist who’s only been playing for four years to have not only these kind of chops, but to be able to tug on the heartstrings and still demonstrate the musical wisdom to hold back – letting the legato do the legwork – is unusual to say the least. We’re excited to see what happens next for Yamato. Right now, though, we feel he’s earned a break.
“I want to thank you to my family and the people back in Japan that have supported me,” he tells us. “I will do my best, more and more.” And those future plans? “I’m going to practice more and make more music!” We can’t fault that...