Theme and Variations

Thoughts and experiences of exploring classical, jazz, and other art music.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Keiko Matsui - Part One

I'm taking a little side trip (as I warned you I would do) to talk about Keiko Matsui's recordings. I'm doing concentrated listening to the CD's I have, starting with the ones with the earliest copyright dates to the latest (this won't work all that well, as a bunch of them have the same date). I start with Under Northern Lights and No Borders.

I should state up front that my first experience with her was with the White Owl CD, and I was hooked by the end of the first work. So, for the early recordings, I may refer to that CD.

Under Northern Lights is the title of the first track on the CD so named, and it has some nice stuff, but the only works that stick out are the ones I don't like. On many of her early CDs she included one or two vocal works, and, except for one, I really don't like them. Generally, the lyrics are too schmaltzy. There are two such vocal works on this CD: "As Far as the Eye Can See" and "High Brow Country Affair," the latter of which I really, truly don't like.

No Borders has one of the best cover photos of her entire set of recordings. I don't know why, but she usually seems kinda sad on most of her covers. This one, though, is a great close up in black and white and she is actually, sorta smiling. The other photos in the notes look great as well. The CD has the only vocal I've liked, "Mover." From the notes I see that the vocals are sung by Greg Walker, with chorus by Maxi Anderson. Another name pops out at me, Nathan East. He plays bass for the jazz quartet Fourplay, as well as adds occasional vocals. So, East gets around in the smooth jazz world.

Two works on the CD are "Kappa (Water Elf)," and "The Wind and the Wolf," with the latter featuring her husband Kazu on the Shakuhachi, a sort of flute. I mention these, as they are on the White Owl CD as well.

As a sidebar, I find concentrated listening on a smooth jazz album is easier than on a classical album. Since the works are shorter, I can listen in the car without getting interrupted in the middle of a longer work.

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This one, though, is truly a fantastic near up in dark and light and she is actually, sorta smiling.
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