Kazu Matsui: Bamboo

An artful, atmospheric work that is more accessible than you might think, Kazu Matsui’s Bamboo (Narada 70876-15375-2-9; 47:07) offers musical perspective on the ancient traditions of his shakuhachi flute through memorable melodies and absorbing atmospheres. As Buddhist monks originally played this bamboo instrument, spiritually derived compositions like “Shrine” follow naturally, with Matsui’s gentle strains transporting listeners to another time. Specific moods also flow from the hollow, haunted tones of the flute: high tones playing against deep-bowed strings for a majestic feel on “Talking With Rice Spirit” and anticipation played in the mysterious, slow-motion melody of “Dancing in the Remaining Lights.” Other highlights include “Small Monk, Opening the Gate,” which begins quietly, before turning bright and upbeat-like opening a door to hidden wonders-and “Up in the Sky,” with a warm, rhythmic resonance surrounding a timeless, pretty melody. Matsui’s play is complemented throughout by the well-placed piano accents of his wife and frequent production partner, Keiko, giving the historic grace of his instrument a modern anchor.