Keiko Matsui – Soul Quest

July 11, 2013

The Japanese princess of contemporary jazz, the lovely Keiko Matsui, is back with yet another of her mesmerizing collection of tunes on her latest project, Soul Quest, to be released on July 30.  True to form, it is full of portraits of this virtuoso’s magical journeKeiko's Soul Quest CDys and insights.

Sandwiched between a killer lead track (“Dream Seeker”) and the killer finale (“Stingo,” which pays homage to one of her favorite artists, Sting) is a set of grooves as only Matsui can deliver. 

“Creating this album was like going on a soul quest, as I tried to figure out how to express the things I was thinking and experiencing during this past year,” she states. “This music energizes me and I am overwhelmed with emotion when I listen to it.  I hope people will allow themselves to go inside the music and become a part of my journey.” I’m certain she will not need to convince many at all.

The very profound pianist and world citizen is celebrating a triumphant 25 years of recording in the US. To help her celebrate, some very special guests were invited to be part of this moment in time: guitarist and Fourplay member Chuck Loeb, saxman extraordinaire Kirk Whalum, and drummer/songwriter/producer/vocalist Narada Michael Walden, among others. This is one party no true contemporary jazz fan should miss.

There are so many stand-out tracks here that are my faves that I will only single out a few. The brief “Moving Mountain” is performed in such a fashion as to allow you to see and sense that mountain being moved. “A Night With Cha Cha” is simply bursting at the seams with energy and electric passion while the reflective “Antarctica – A Call to Action” is so very riveting in its unspoken message set in motion by Matsui’s uncanny ability to communicate in this very effective fashion. The title track is simply all-encompassing and warm. Who does warm better than Matsui? Then, there’s the laid back, soulful, and even funky “Proof.”

By my estimation, it takes Matsui all of one-half a second to restore one’s sagging faith in the state of “smooth” or contemporary jazz. Of course, it has been said by many on more than one occasion that you simply cannot categorize or pigeonhole this comely artist or her approach to music. Still, doesn’t it feel so great to have her take up residence in our musical community, whether she chose us or vice versa?

So, where does an artist of such breadth go from perfection? In her own humble way, I’m willing to bet dollars to donuts that she sees herself as still striving to reach her pinnacle. If so, she most certainly can count Soul Quest as pointing her further upward toward that goal (which was attained a long time ago, in my opinion).  How very fortunate we are to have one who approaches each project as if it were her first. – Ronald Jackson