Composer and keyboardist Keiko Matsui's mostly acoustic piano pieces have always been signaled by gradual openings that build to rousing conclusions. In between, she displays her skills with memorable melodies and some fantastic keyboard jaunts. "Facing Up," modernized with computer enhancements and hip-hop elements, is a good example of her power: Matsui's music was made for headphones, where you can zone out even as you mentally download the complexity of her music, which can often sound simplistic during initial listenings.
Wildflower opens with the hit-worthy "Flashback," its soaring melodic moments so crystal-clear you begin to sense the grandeur Matsui strives for as her legacy. There are always detours, however. On "Sense of a Journey," Matsui dips into a jazzy groove, while on "Brand New Wind" saxes, a thumping bass line and children's joyful cries coagulate into a successful whole. Matsui throws in Old World-music elements while keeping her head firmly in the present with some new keyboard sounds and, as always, gets help from her husband, shakuhachi flute player and producer Kazu Matsui.
In addition to creating music, Matsui is an established humanitarian. On this, her 14th studio recording, Matsui decided that the title track would benefit the United Nations World Food Programme's relief efforts in Africa, and she's raising awareness of the organization during her worldwide tour this year. The simple but effective piano ballad is one of the most beautiful singles in her long career.