Keiko Matsui – Journey to the Heart

Aug. 1, 2016

After our 3-year-long and sensuous journey and love affair with the remarkable Soul Quest release and tour, our resident princess of contemporary jazz and World music, pianist/keyboardist/composer/visionary Keiko Matsui is back with – what else?—another guaranteed smash hit project called Journey to the Heart. Oh yes. Get ready for yet another colorful and soul-satisfying journey offered up by one who has never learned the meaning of the words “quit” or “mediocre.”

With a new collection of all-original material (did you expect anything less??) and a new musical “canvas,” the lovely and petite Japanese powerhouse takes us aboard her own magic carpet of musical ecstasy and we’re off to new and wondrous lands again!

To deliver on the promise of this album, she opens with the melodically enticing and finger-snapping “Moving On” and its immediately infectious hook. Ah, what this woman does with a piano, constantly using it as much as a paintbrush as a musical instrument. From this track, we zip off to experience the lushness of the Latin groove with “Carnival.” The colors are absolutely blinding here, and the mood is as heavily festive as you can possibly imagine.

The tone and feel of “The Edge of Night” will prove to be quite familiar as having that signature Matsui touch of elegance and sophistication as she tickles the ivories in that insanely delicate way of hers. She shares the spotlight on this one with a very effective guitarist, Ramon Stagnero, who shines brightly here. There’s also that slick change in time signature that always drives me insane with its perfection, by the way.

Moving quickly through this album is virtually impossible because you will undoubtedly pause to go back and check out again the intricacies of her musical charm and the arrangement of a particular track. Take, for example, the structure of “Casablanca” with its French and Latin touches, her classical piano tweaks, and again, that remarkable timing change.

One of my favs here is the strings-laden and celestially beautiful title track. It simply again demonstrates how broad and comprehensive a brush this Picasso of music uses in her illustrations.

All in all, not a bad track here, as is always the case. Keiko Matsui should truly have a place in the musical dictionary for those seeking the definition of complete musical excellence. Every single one of her albums in her decades-long career bear this out. – Triple A+ effort! – Ronald Jackson