Keiko Matsui

Deep Blue

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Keiko Matsui's last album, 2000s Whisper From the Mirror, was picked up and reissued by the Narada label in 2001, and Narada is also releasing her 12th album, Deep Blue. It's an appropriate match-up for the Japanese pianist, since Narada is known primarily as a new age label, and, though her records are being released on its Narada Jazz imprint, "new age" is actually the best category to place her in. From the start of her career, Matsui has been shelved under "jazz," but that has always been more a marketing ploy than anything else, and never more so than on Deep Blue. Her compositions are melodic tunes, many of which sound like songs without lyrics, while others seem like soundtrack excerpts from a film not yet made. Matsui does solo within the tunes on occasion, but her improvisations -- if that is even what they are -- tend to explore further melodic developments rather than really take off. And the supporting instruments are just that -- percussion, string, and keyboard elements that support the composition. The music is said to be inspired by North Africa and the Mediterranean, another clue to its real intent. Jazz musicians rarely bother to make such extra-musical programming remarks, while classical, soundtrack, and new age composers do it all the time. As usual with Matsui's recordings, much of Deep Blue is attractive and engaging, and the bright pianism is consistently pleasing in its expression of flowing melodies. That it doesn't really belong in the category to which Matsui has somehow been assigned does nothing to diminish its appeal.

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