I have long been a huge fan of this worldly, beautiful, soft-spoken, classy, and mega-talented princess of the Far East, and I’ve seen her on many, many occasions in concert. Well, tonight was another of her unparalleled performances, and it solidly and unquestionably drove home my assertion that, in the world of smooth jazz, she has few--VERY few--equals.
Surrounded by some of the most talented musicians I’ve seen in a long, long while (including sensational saxophonist and Bluestone recording artist Michael Ghegan-check out his self-titled debut CD!), Keiko’s performance was marked by incredibly melodious and fluid precision.
She performed before a sold-out crowd (the show had been sold out weeks before the concert, I’m told!). If you’ve ever seen Keiko, you’ll agree that there’s no wonder! Hubby Kazu (an incredible master of the shakuhachi-the Japanese bamboo flute-and an artist in his own right) was absent and, while we missed his hauntingly mesmerizing instrument and the way he can complement her, Keiko was still Keiko. Need I say more? O.k., I will.
Once announced, Keiko strode onto stage and proceeded to completely mesmerize us all with 2 hours of bliss. Her trademark mix of jazz and concerto-style runs and melodic chords---laced with the glorious imagery of the mystical Far East--were simply breathtaking.
Starting off with a light, classical-like intro, she quickly thundered into "The First Four Years," from her No Borders release on the MCA label. To say it was an exercise in sheer fluidity and intensity is an understatement. She has such a handle on finessing the ivories with her soft, classical touch one moment and exploding in a glorious, fiery crescendo the next. She quickly followed this powerful tune with "Moonlight Sailor" from her Night Waltz CD under CGR Productions/Sin-Drome Records. The third tune was her famed "Kappa," also from No Borders. It’s the story of an elf and the picturesque forests of Japan. Along with envisioning the little fellow running or lounging about through the forest, you could actually feel the breeze, smell the grass, and see the sunlight peering through the trees as she carefully and deliberately strolled through this tune. Her performances are usually marked with such journeys, and we all gladly went along!
She continued to dazzle us throughout the evening with tunes from many of her other CDs (she has 18 in all), including her newest Narada Records release, The Walls of Akendora, another masterpiece in a long series of masterpieces. She also dedicated "Whispers from the Mirror" (from the album of the same name) to a Russian figure skater who skated to this marvelous piece in her competition. Needless to say, she and the young lady have since formed a mutual admiration society!
At the end of a totally electric evening, the ever-charming, petite wonder closed with one more, "Walking Through It," from her latest, then graciously exited to thunderous applause.
Keiko is the type of artist you can’t help loving as a person, as well as an artist. She is, at once, humble. She and Kazu are also the proud and devoted parents of two lovely daughters. I mention this because, judging from the passion with which they each play, there’s no doubt in my mind that the girls will follow in the footsteps of their famously talented parents, and we can expect to be treated to generations of Matsui musical magic.
Here is an artist for whom one always awaits the next release, knowing it will be full of exotic, enchanting, and hypnotic musical gifts.
If you have never experienced the magic that is Keiko, deny yourself no longer. Go as soon as she comes to your town or go to another town and see her. Just see her! You’ll view smooth jazz in a whole new light guaranteed.