Diaa Bekheet | Washington, DC – If you love piano and keyboard music, then international jazz sensation Keiko Matsui deserves a spot on your Top 10 list. She continues to amaze me as one of the most prolific, innovative and creative Japanese-American jazz pianists and composers in the world. Talented Matsui has released more than 40 CDs.
I have been following the smooth jazz pianist, and new age composer since her first fusion-flavored album A Drop of Water debuted in 1987. Her blend of eastern flair music with American jazz is introspective and soothing.
Matsui was born in Tokyo, Japan, in July 1963. Influenced by her mother, she started at piano at age five. She focused on classical music, but in junior high school Matsui found herself attracted very much to jazz. She says she was influenced by Stevie Wonder and Sergei Rachmaninoff as well as early fusion masters Maurice Jarre and Chick Corea.
Matsui is best known in North Africa and the Middle East for her song “Rose in Morocco”. The song is from her album Deep Blue, which made it all the way to No.1 on the Billboard Charts for Top Contemporary Jazz Albums in 2001.
Matsui was well-received in the Moroccan countryside when she performed with a stellar line-up of local and international jazz artists at the First Annual Casablanca Jazz Festival in June 2001. Such festivals provide a real opportunity for up-and-coming artists to perform among well established and acclaimed musicians.
She has been able to differentiate herself from the rest of contemporary jazz artists because of her ability to flirt eastern music with new age, Latin, funk and other genre. She truly breaks the mold and brings new energy to jazz.
For the past few years, Matsui has taken an interest in social charitable programs to help the needy and sick. In 1997, she dedicated some of her music to the fight for breast cancer. Her music is heard on “Say It, Fight It, Cure It”, a Lifetime TV channel special about breast cancer. In 2001, proceeds from her four-track benefit album A Gift of Life went to the National Marrow Donor Program and the Marrow Foundation in support of their program Asians for Miracle Marrow Matches, raising awareness for the worldwide need for bone marrow and stem cell donors, in hopes of improving the chance of finding matching donors for needed transplants.
On December 17, 2003, Keiko Matsui played at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City to benefit the World Food Program (WFP), and raise awareness for fighting world hunger. She also donated royalties from her 2004 album Wildflower to support WFP’s efforts in hunger-stricken countries.
Matsui, who lives in Los Angeles, California, is performing next week at the Liliu Theater in Honolulu, Hawaii. Last week she was in Washington, performing at Constitution Hall as part of her North America tour. Her latest album, ALTAIR & VEGA, was released last year.
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