As producer for his popular keyboardist/composer wife, Keiko Matsui, Kazu Matsui has not only orchestrated mystical sounds for her classically inspired melodies, he has also contributed his own spiritual touch via the native Japanese shakuhachi flute. He's contributed these to many movie soundtracks as well, from Willow to Legends of the Fall. His debut on Narada -- following Deep Blue, his wife's popular first outing for the label -- is very much consistent with the less pop-oriented, more expansive and atmospheric side of Keiko. These aren't so much strict compositions as they are unique and mystical meditations which surround his flute with brooding atmospheres, sweeping orchestrations, and occasional passages by Keiko. The opening track, "Shrine" (a titular throwback to her Full Moon and the Shrine disc), begins with dramatic percussive shakuhachi lines before Kazu creeps into the background behind other Eastern-flavored keyboard sounds; he then gives way to Keiko's improvisational passages as a bassline broods in the distance. "Black Bird & the Bamboo Forest" is like a nighttime jungle excursion by husband and wife, her thoughtful piano passages becoming more emotional as he echoes in the background and the distant strings boom. There is a tendency for Keiko's melodies to dominate at times, but this is balanced by other tunes, like the plaintive "Up in the Sky," which features the flute carrying the melody through most of the tune. Keiko's discs have moved away from smooth jazz toward more classical flavors and atmospheres, and Kazu is perfectly in this spirit. If you've enjoyed the productions on her projects, you'll enjoy this one, too.
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AllMusic Review by Jonathan Widran