Keiko Matsui is the Stevie Nicks of contemporary jazz. In her photos, she always appears pale, out of a mist, like a fairy goddess or angel. Her creative and long popular blend of classical piano, aggressive jazz/funk, orchestral grandeur, and sonic elements from her native Japan allows her to create both poignant ballads and more aggressive fusion statements. Over the course of her last few albums, Matsui's Lindsey Buckingham – always at her side, pushing her performance harder and higher – has been seductive saxman Paul Taylor. On this ethereal mind trip, Full Moon and the Shrine (Countdown/Unity), she doesn't let Taylor stray too far.
Producer Norman Granz occasionally got carried away with the quantity of his recording projects. In 1974 he recorded a full album teaming fellow pianists Count Basie and Oscar Peterson in a rhythm quintet; little did anyone realize that this then-unique matchup would eventually result in five albums. This first one, which finds Basie doubling on organ, is among the best. Peterson's virtuosic style somehow worked very well with Basie's sparse playing and these ten numbers really swing.
On his third solo effort, Eric Vloeimans employs a similar post-Miles Davis approach to the trumpet as Wynton Marsalis. Featuring pointillistic compositions accented by slippery diminished runs, Bitches and Fairy Tales is a nice drink of fuzzy, straight-ahead jazz with Vloeimans often adding a little avant-garde triple sec into the mix. While comparable to Marsalis in his use of operatic bent tones punctuated by the occasional growl, Vloeimans more often settles into his warm, foggy tone like another trumpeter who had an affinity for the Netherlands, Chet Baker. Backing Vloeimans on piano is the Bill Evans-influenced Brit John Taylor. Joey Baron on drums and Marc Johnson on bass round out the group.
Singer Jean Carne's career has had various incarnations, as well as a slight name change similar to Dionne Warwick's (adding an "e" to the end of her last name as Warwick did for a short time). Born Sarah Jean Perkins in Columbus, GA, she was raised in Atlanta. She began singing gospel music in the church choir at age four; she also took piano lessons and learned the clarinet and bassoon. Carne won a music scholarship to Morris Brown College and began her recording career in 1969 with her husband, keyboardist Doug Carn, on the Black Jazz label, where she was one of the last vocalists to work with jazz legend Duke Ellington before his death.