Keiko Matsui is an icon of contemporary jazz. With nearly 1.2 million units sold in the U.S. alone and packed concert halls, she is one of the most recognized artists in the genre. Her elegant piano melodies and gentle jazz grooves have enormous appeal and never disappoint her loyal fan base which she has cultivated with over a dozen albums and stunning live shows.
Matsui has taken her music to extraordinary places since that fateful day of her first piano lesson. By the time she was in junior high school, she began composing and developing a taste for jazz, drawing inspiration from a variety of classical and contemporary composers ranging from Chopin, Mozart, and Rachmaninov to Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, and Stevie Wonder. At the age of 17, Matsui was chosen to record for the Foundation, and that same year, she composed her first film score.
Matsui commenced her solo recording career with 1987’s A DROP OF WATER. The album (financed with funds she and her husband, shakuhachi flute player/producer Kazu Matsui, had planned to use for their honeymoon) established Matsui as a talent of note. Her subsequent albums, including NO BORDERS (1989), UNDER NORTHERN LIGHTS (1990), NIGHT WALTZ (1991), CHERRY BLOSSOM (1992), DOLL (1994), SAPPHIRE (1995), and DREAM WALK (1996) further cemented her reputation and increased her popularity. No stranger to the upper reaches of the contemporary jazz album and airplay charts, Matsui was named Top Indie Contemporary Jazz Artist Of The Year by Billboard magazine in 1996.
In 1997, The American Society of Young Musicians honored Matsui with its Essence Award, which recognizes artists whose vitality captures “the very spirit and soul of audiences worldwide.” That same year, she launched a tour dedicated to raising awareness of breast cancer, and released a four-song CD entitled A GIFT OF HOPE that benefited the Y-Me Breast Cancer Organization. Matsui’s music was prominently featured in Say It, Fight It, Cure It, a special profiling several courageous women who were battling breast cancer that aired on the Lifetime cable television network. In 1999, Matsui performed at “A Golden Moment,” a skating concert featuring Olympic figure skaters Kristi Yamaguchi, Tara Lipinski, Ekaterina Gordeeva, and Katarina Witt that benefited the renowned breast cancer organization, the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
1998 saw the release of Matsui’s album FULL MOON AND THE SHRINE, which was accompanied by an acclaimed PBS-TV special entitled Keiko Matsui: Light Above The Trees. The special reflected the multicultural nature of Matsui’s life and music and was filmed, in part, at Japan’s breathtakingly beautiful 1,300-year-old Itsukushima Shrine and during a high-energy concert in San Francisco. The special earned Matsui a National Smooth Jazz Award for Best Long-Form Video Achievement in 2000. She was also honored as the Best Female Artist that year and again in 2001.
On 2004’s WILDFLOWER, Matsui once again used music as a platform for inspiring good. The album’s title track benefits the United Nations World Food Programme’s efforts in Africa. WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian agency, which, in 2002, fed 72 million people in 82 countries including most of the world’s refugees and internally displaced people. “I decided I wanted to support the WFP after learning about the tremendous problems in Africa and how humanitarian assistance can change people’s lives for the better,” Matsui said. “So much help is needed there, particularly for the children who have been orphaned or abandoned because of war and AIDS.”
WALLS OF AKENDORA (2005) showcases her signature sophisticated jazz style on ten tunes that range from the classically inspired to bold and brassy. ‘Akendora,’ Matsui explains, ‘is a fictional place of my own device! It is a place that I to go to find peace and to spend contemplative moments.
Matsui’s latest release (Shout Factory, 2007) is the CD, MOYO. (Moyo means heart & soul in African.) Her extended stay in South Africa influenced many of the tunes. Some of the tracks were even recorded in Johannesburg. Guest artists on this CD include Richard Bona, Gerald Albright, Paul Taylor and the legendary Hugh Masekela. This was one of Matsui’s best selling releases and the single, ‘Black River’ reached #3 on the radio charts and stayed on those charts for 36 weeks. For more, please visit www.keikomatsui.com.
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