Keiko Matsui: Moyo

Jon Ross

Disparate musics? Voices? What is going on? In a word, everything.

Keiko Matsui


Label: Shout! Factory
US Release Date: 2007-04-24
UK Release Date: Available as import

The first track from Keiko Matsui’s latest smooth jazz release starts with an accelerando hand drum rhythm. Next comes a funky piano vamp, echoed by an electric bass. Enter vocalizations. Cut to sweeping saccharine piano, then back to the vamp. Here’s a bridge of some sort: a piano mini-melody echoed by more voices. Disparate musics? Voices? What is going on? In a word, everything. Within the first two minutes of “Moyo”, African percussion blends with funk blends with jazz. Matsui’s classical athleticism -- which can be heard in how she executes her trills and adds a shimmering quality to her lines -- is at the center of this amalgam of sound, an aesthetic that, as the CD gets deeper into the tracks, becomes increasingly directed by synthesizers and other electronics.

To take this as a disadvantage -- the schizophrenia of the music, the tendency to pack too much into a three-minute space -- would be wrong. Matsui shrouds herself in layers of instrumentation, content to emote from her insulated space in the center of it all, and that’s exactly what her music is supposed to accomplish. To the pianist, it’s not about improvisation; it’s not even about chords or notes. Matsui’s music is about making a product that sounds good, and, taking into account the heavy production on a release like this, Moyo sounds great. But this is all the music accomplishes. There is no higher meaning to the placement of one feeling against another. This is not instrumental music intended for deep introspection. Matsui’s aim is more superficial; this is music for a passing glance -- or elevator ride -- but nothing more.

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