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Chasing Daylight: The road to the final album from late West Philly guitar genius Yuzo Iwata

Yuzo Iwata | photo by Elana Iwata | courtesy of the artist

“Goodnight, Daylight Moon” is the final track on Yuzo Iwata’s final album Daylight Moon, released just months before the Philadelphia guitarist succumbed to kidney cancer last June. It is a beautiful, almost haunting song, with Iwata’s guitar soaring over the sparse arrangements.

It’s not a fitting end, since no end is truly fitting, especially when someone dies at just 59, leaving behind a wife, two kids, and a true community of friends. But if there has to be an end, it’s a perfect one, even if it does leave you wanting more.

Iwata never came to prominence in the way we typically talk about these things. In fact, up until this album, very few people knew him as a musician. Instead he was just Yuzo, a really nice and kind of quiet guy who was born in Japan and worked for decades at Essene, the natural market off of South Street. Sure, he was in the absolutely legendary Japanese psych rock band Maher Shalal Hash Baz back in the 80s, and sure he put out a stunningly brilliant solo album in 1999 called Drowning In The Sky, but it’s not like he went around telling people about it. There was a short tour of Scotland with Maher in the late 90s, but outside of that, barely any other shows until the last couple years.

His reemergence into music came on like a thunderclap. A lot of people were simply stunned, both by Iwata’s songs and the fact that he had been so inactive for so long. It was like he was coming out of nowhere, despite the fact that he had been playing music for decades.The shows he was able to play were packed and the first pressing of the album, released on local label Siltbreeze, sold out in a couple weeks, though Jordan Burgis — who recorded and helped produce Daylight Moon — said that it will be repressed later this year. The cancer came on during the mid-point of the recording process, which started in 2014. By the time the album was finally out he was very sick. The last show he played was at the Philadelphia Record Exchange in March of 2018. Continue reading →