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January/February 2004

Keiko Matsui
White Owl
Narada Media

Keiko Matsui has carefully straddled the line between her passion-New Age-and the stuff that puts her on the radio-smooth jazz-for more than 16 years. Sparkling piano melodies and anthemic productions have elevated her to Yanni-like status and, like the Greek performer, Matsui's concerts are highly energized, life-affirming productions programmed for goose bumps and the warm-and-fuzzies. Her live talents are displayed on White Owl (Narada), which captures a performance at Bunkamura Orchard Hall in Tokyo. Want to see Matsui performing? No problem. An added DVD includes all the CD's songs, plus a bonus track and clips from Matsui's travels in the United States, Morocco, South Africa and Istanbul.

On the CD and DVD, you hear Matsui's trademark sounds on tracks such as "White Owl," where quiet interaction between the pianist and her band slowly gives way to stepping-stone crescendos and bombastic climaxes. She throws in three solos and several smooth-jazz sojourns, including her radio hit "Safari." Elsewhere, Matsui gives the green light to her jamming band and wisely allows her husband and shakuhachi flutist Kazu Matsui to bask in the limelight, especially on the evocative "To the Indian Sea."

This is a must for Matsui's many fans, and the DVD is a cool bonus.

Originally published in January/February 2004
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