Contemporary jazz/new-age pianist Keiko Matsui is better known, but it’s her ex-husband Kazu Matsui who in the 1980s was one of the architects of the quiet storm format named after a Smokey Robinson song and album from 1975. Kazu Matsui, a master of the shakuhachi, or Japanese flute, debuted in 1981 on a solo CD with friends Lee Ritenour, Larry Carlton, Robben Ford, Jeff Porcaro and Steve Lukather.
Pioneer was actually recorded over a five-year span in the 1980s but, for reasons unknown, only just released. Many of the musical guests were fringe players then, but now read like a who’s who in contemporary jazz: bassist Nathan East, guitarists Paul Jackson Jr. and Robben Ford and saxophonists Eric Marienthal and Brandon Fields. Vocalists include Phillip Ingram, Carl Anderson, Marva King and Jennifer Warnes.
The result is the desired snapshot of 1980s quiet storm and, with 16 original tunes, there is no lack of it. That’s the good news. The bad news is that it’s a snapshot of 1980s quiet storm, sounding depressingly dated and surprisingly empty of any significant emotional depth.