Steve Masakowski is a prolific modern jazz guitarist, educator, collaborator, and inventor. The New Orleans native is a founding member of Astral Project, the seminal modern jazz group, and has performed with a jazz Who’s Who including Johnny Adams, Mose Allison, Bobby McFerrin, Dianne Reeves, Woody Shaw, James Black, Earl Turbinton, Dave Liebman, and Ellis Marsalis. Masakowski currently performs with his own ensembles, with Astral Project, and with his children, vocalist Sasha Masakowski and bassist Martin Masakowski.
Masakowski may best be known as the inventor of the key-tar and the switch pick, which allows a player to switch from finger- to flatpicking. He built his first key-tar in 1978, with seven rows of keys instead of strings, attached to an early Moog synthesizer (these were the pre-MIDI days). Although he never pursued a patent, and despite the inevitable controversies, he is regarded in many circles as the father of the modern keytar, which is used across the music spectrum by artists ranging from Herbie Hancock to Prince.
Masakowski is also an educator, teaching at the University of New Orleans for many years before his recent retirement. He has authored books and articles on learning to play jazz guitar, and won a shelf load of accolades as an individual performer and for his work with Astral Project.