Keiko Matsui’s 27th recording as a leader, Journey to the Heart, marks the 30th anniversary of the pianist-composer’s recording debut. Such career milestones often drive artists to reinvent their stylistic approach or overarching vision. Matsui instead opts for consolidation, the album’s 10 original compositions marked by the unwavering commitment to melody and the open-eyed emotional engagement that have always distinguished her music.
Journey to the Heart finds Matsui backed by a quartet of Latin American musicians, with several of the compositions likewise evincing a notably Latin character. “Havana Nights” twirls through a sprightly melody before its hard-pounding block-chord bridge, powered by the forceful drums of Jimmy Branley and Luis Quintero’s light yet insistent percussion. Snaky samba-kissed lines galvanize the sultry “Carnival,” with deftly lilting solos from guitarists Ramon Stagnero and J.P. Mourão. In a different vein, Moroccan-style drums and piano propel the headlong “Casablanca,” an elegant showcase for the twinned attack of Matsui and the harmonica of special guest Grégoire Maret.