For those who like a little mysticism and classical influence in their smooth jazz, Japanese-born composer and keyboardist Keiko Matsui has long been the ticket. She was Billboard's number one Independent Contemporary Jazz Artist in 1997 and is the top New Adult Contemporary female instrumentalist of her time. In the early days (she's up to 14 albums now), Matsui did it with a mix of thunderous film score-like sweeps, elegant and jazzy piano command, and a guest sax solo here and there to score some radio hits. On The Ring, she continues her recent trend of all those same elements and gorgeous melodies without concern for pop airplay considerations.
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.
Released in 2013, Keiko Matsui's funky, groove-centric Soul Quest featured Narada Michael Walden, Marcus Miller, Chuck Loeb, and Kirk Whalum, among others. It placed high on the jazz charts and set her upon a world tour that resulted in 2015's Live in Tokyo. Arriving in 2016, Journey to the Heart marks her 27th album as a leader and her 30th anniversary as a recording artist. It's a much more organic set that places her acoustic piano at the fore. Her collaborators include bassist Carlitos Del Puerto, drummer Jimmy Branley, guitarist Ramon Stagnero, percussionist Luis Quintero, and Gregoire Maret on harmonica.
New age composer/multi-instrumentalist Kazu Matsui reinterprets the works of Franz Schubert in Tribal Schubert, placing his classical compositions into completely different, refreshing contexts. Matsui introduces and integrates jazz, hip-hop, ambient, Eastern and improvisational elements into Schubert pieces, transcending the formality of the original works while preserving the melodic beauty of the originals. Tribal Schubert also features new age/jazz pianist Matsui on several tracks, adding to the album's diverse mix of classical and cutting edge.
For the very first time, the magic of Keiko Matsui's live concert performance has been captured on this recording. Iconic keyboardist/composer Keiko Matsui has been wowing audiences around the world. Billed as “The Soul Quest Tour,” Keiko’s dynamic performances have been filling concert halls and garnering standing ovations and rave reviews. On this magical night in Tokyo, fellow Smooth Jazz superstars Kirk Whalum, Chuck Loeb and Tom Braxton joined Keiko to make musical history! This brilliantly captured album features some of Keiko’s biggest radio hits such as “Black Lion” and “Dream Seeker” as well as signature treasures “Deep Blue”, “Forever, Forever” and much more.
Live In Tokyo leans hard on Soul Quest (Shanachie, 2013), with seven of the 13 tracks coming from that album where Matsui fully embraced her smooth jazz following. The Keiko Matsui Sound formerly represented an East-meets-West hybrid of classical, New Age and jazz with a Japanese flourish provided by ex-husband Kazu Matsui's shakahuchi. That part of sound vanished eight years ago after they divorced. A different sort of soul quest began which took Keiko Matsui to Africa and that lid a creative spark in the brilliantly underrated Moyo.
If there's such a thing as poetic music, Matsui continues her discovery of it on this effort. For all its beauty ad more aggressive touches, this collection doesn't quite measure up to her previous collection No Borders, but there are moments of fusion in her work here which cook like never before, thanks to Eric Marienthal, Gerald Albright and guitarist Ron Komie…
Taking a stroll through Keiko Matsui's musical hypnotherapy session Dream Walk is like entering a funhouse where all previous definitions of contemporary jazz are strikingly distorted, and invention walks on the wild side of East meets West. Crisp melodies have always been at the heart of the keyboardist's best work, only here they come at you as part of the mood, rather than the central theme…
If we're talking Keiko Matsui, we can expect another impressionistic album cover which belies the often explosive music on the disc. Matsui draws a little more from her heritage this time but textures it with soulful excursions ("Walking on the Bridge")….