"Music has no borders for me; it is very open. It is like a mirror. It reflects my thoughts and emotions."
KEIKO MATSUI - A CITIZEN OF THE WORLD, "I LIVE IN THE SKY"
The spiritual Japanese pianist and composer, Keiko Matsui (pronounced Kay-Koe, meaning 'happy, delightful child), born in Tokyo, has been performing for almost three decades as a contemporary jazz master. She has released more than twenty albums, in addition to various compilations. She has toured all around the world and performed with the greatest artists in the most prestigious concert halls in Europe, Asia, the United States, and Africa. She has many fans especially in East European countries like Azerbaijan, Moldova, Lithuania, Poland, and also Turkey. Although she has been living in Los Angeles for 25 years and she has a house in Japan, she isn't at home much. That's because she is always travelling. "I live in the sky", she says, smilingly. "I am a citizen of the world, because most of the time I am travelling. Just packing and unpacking suitcases. Sometimes I get tired of travelling, but when I do concerts, it always makes me so happy to see my fans smile. It gives me energy. I love making music and putting emotion into my work."
"I hope that my music will connect all people's minds together"
"Nature has always been my source of inspiration, I derive a lot of inspiration from it. I was born in a suburb of Tokyo, with lots of trees and a park nearby. I also lived in Hiroshima for 3 years, when I was in elementary school. My memories of Hiroshima are reflected in some of my compositions too. Some of my songs have impressions and influences of the peaceful ocean near Los Angeles, in the southern part where I live a quiet life, when I am there; or from landscapes from Japan or even the moon. I love my song Deep Blue. I am always imagining that the oceans connect the continents of the world. I hope that my music will connect all people's minds together. The Japanese musician explains her special mission behind her music, "I want to unite people through music. Everybody has so many things going on in their lives, but my concerts, my music creates a oneness. The musical exchange I share with my audience is the root of my energy. It is my mission."
Keiko Matsui's music is 'beyond category'
Although Keiko Matsui has been performing at many smooth jazz festivals, the Japanese virtuoso feels she is creating music 'beyond category'. "My style of music is hard to describe," she says. "It is a mixture of all kinds of styles. Sometimes my composItions have influences from classical music or world music, sometimes from pop music, jazz, funk, rhythm and blues and acoustIc new age. So there are many different elements in my music. There are many different elements in my music, The best way to describe my music is comtemporary jazz. But when I compose I don't think about anything. I usually just sit at the piano and wait to hear melodies. I take a lot of time to recieve these melodies - almost like a ceramony that happens between me and the Universe. With each album, I feel my connection to the piano becoming deeper, and I really feel like a new gate is opening, that will take me to a different stage in my career. I hope my music stays in people's hearts for centuries."
Keiko Matsui has been recording in the US over 25 years now: In 1987, she released her US solo debut LP with the recording A Drop of Water. Keiko: "This song's lyrics were written by Jeff Day who is a very philosophical lyricist." The album's title was in memory of those who died in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster the year before. Jeff Day wrote the lyrics with astronauts in his mind, when they are looking at our earth, from the universe - imagining the astronauts felt the earth looks like a drop of water in this universe."
Keiko has brought her music to virtually every corner of the globe and has inspired several generations of instrumental music fans throughout the world. She has played with top musicians, like drummer Narada Michael Walden, guitarist Chuck Loeb, saxophonists Kirk Whalum and Andy Snitzer, and bassist Marcus Miller. She celebrated the 25th anniversary of her recording career in the US with the album Soul Quest, with music that energizes and overwhelms with emotions. Keiko says, "Soul Quest is a riveting new collection of songs, that unfold like an epic journey. It was recorded in different places, in New York, Japan, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Eastern Europe. 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 the past year," she confides. "I hope people will allow themselves to go inside my music and become a part of my journey. The album is influenced by my thoughts about life and where we came from. When I played this melody I noticed that each one of us has decided to come to this planet, which is also a quest. I was happy to share these emotions and experience with everyone. So this is for me a very special song too."
Jazz for Japan - A contribution to the victims of tragedy in Japan in 2011
Keiko Matsui took part in the "Jazz for Japan" benefit recording that took place after the March 11, 2011 tragedy that hit the Northeast coast of Japan, when a large earthquake triggered a deadly tsunami. The damage caused by the tsunami produced equipment failures, resulting in three nuclear meltdowns and the release of radioactive material. Keiko remembers, "I got very emotional at that time. They invited me to play on a special compilation album, together with various American jazz musicians, and a few others. When I came to the recording studio, there were all kind of great artists, such as David Paich from Toto and Marcus Miller. I felt honoured to join those artists, because I saw that they loved Japan and they wanted to support the victims through their music. I performed one song on the album. I am thankful to all the artists that helped Japan. I still have these images of kindergarten teachers holding their kids in order to protect them. I also think of all the older people who did not make it and the children who lost their parents. But when I think about the people who did survive, I think that they may be the strongest souls. Out of this pain, I have found the greatest strength from these individuals."
The devastating effects of the Japanese tragedy left close to 30,000 innocent victims dead or missing. Lives were changed forever not only in Japan, but in the whole world. Keiko was in Japan at the time of the earthquake. She states, "I felt like my life was going to end that day. In the northern part of Japan everything was shaking. I had family in Sendai who were unreachable for ten days."
An unexpected surprise from Bob James
Keiko also performed with Bob James, with whom she played a composition for piano four hands (see video above). Keiko, "Bob James invited me to play a four hands duet with him on his album. We recorded together and he played on my album Whisper from the mirror and then we also did a tour. The concert we played was the Valentine Concert, for the Manchester's Craftsmen Guild, in 2010." Bob James, a 76-old jazz legend, is recognized as one of the original founders of smooth jazz, and is renowd for the complexitiy of his arrangements and instrumentals. Keiko continues, "It was very interesting of course. One day in Tokyo I received a package from Bob delivered to me by FedEx, I didn't expect it at all. When I opened it there was a score, for a song for both of us, which he had written. It also had a title. The first part was for me, and the second for Bob, and in the package was a CD as a reference. He said, "Please join me on my recording, and I composed the song Midnight Stone, which we played on my album. And after that we did a beautiful acoustic concert in Japan, as a four hands piano duo. It was a tour. We played with it about in 7, 8 cities in Japan. "It was quite an experience, we practiced a lot, and we worked on a lot of original compositions. He made a great arrangement for the song Forever, Forever, which I composed after my little daugther of 3 years old, quite surprisingly, said to me, "Mommy, I love you forever forever."
Keiko Matsui and her new group start a World Tour in August
Keiko Matsui's Acoustic Project is set to make its stunning debut with the album Journey To The Heart, available in stores on August 5th. A World Tour showcasing the new material will begin that same month. Favouring acoustic piano & bass over their electric counterparts, the Acoustic Project brings a fresh, new direction with Cuban musicians Carlitos Del Puerto (upright bass) & Jimmy Branley (drums), Ramon Stagnero (guitar) from Peru, and Luis Quintero (percussion) from Venezuela. Together with this new group, Keiko dynamically and naturally expresses melodies that reflect a multi-cultural, world-wide view. The organic and acoustic sound of the musicians brings the piano out to the front more than ever.