Born in Tokyo in 1942, Yamashita is a household celebrity in Japan, and has been performing on the international stages including frequent appearances at many famous jazz festivals. He has been working mainly in a jazz field, also collaborating energetically with various genres of music, ranging from classical orchestra to Japanese or foreign traditional folk music. Critics admire Yamashita’s explosive playing style, often compared with that of Cecil Taylor, as his own unique achievement.

In 1988 Yamashita formed his own New York Trio with bass player Cecil McBee and drummer Pheeroan akLaff. In 1994 he was invited to the 50th anniversary concert of Verve Records, a prestigious jazz label, as a sole musician participated from Asian countries. In 1998 Yamashita made the film score for Shohei Imamura's "Kanzo Sensei (Dr. Akagi)". By the achievement of this work, he received "the Education Minister's Encouragement Award", and other film awards. In 2000, he did the world premiere of his original concerto "Encounter for Improviser". In 2003 he was conferred "the Medal with Purple Ribbon" from Japanese Government for his contributions to the arts and academics. In 2004, he has toured the United States commemorating the 150th anniversary of U.S. - Japan relations. In that year, he also performed his own concerto with the RAI National Orchestra conducted by Yutaka Sado in Turin, Italy. March 2006, he played with a free jazz giant, Ornette Coleman when his group toured Japan. In February 2007, he has presented a duo concert with a master pianist in free jazz, Cecil Taylor. In January 2008, he did the world premiere of his third concerto "Explorer" with the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Yutaka Sado. In May 2009, he did the world premiere of the piano concerto No. 4 “Jazz” composed by Toshi Ichiyanagi. In January 2010, he made a piano duo concert with Stanislav Bunin. In February 2012, he celebrated his 70th anniversary with Vietnam National Symphony Orchestra in Hanoi, Vietnam. In February 2015, he made concert tour to Slovakia and Czech Republic. In February 2016, he made a concert at Musikverein in Vienna with Tonkünstler Orchester conducted by Yutaka Sado. In 2018, he released his New York trio’s 30th anniversary album “30 Light-Years Floating” from Verve, Universal Music, and made a concert tour. In 2020, he celebrated the 50th anniversary of his original trio.

(As of 2020)