By Dennis J. Freeman
Pianist Keiko Matsui has finished her purging. After taking a four-year hiatus from the jazz and music world to restructure her personal and professional life, Matsui, one of the best-known instrumentalists in the world, is back.
She has a new CD, a new outlook on life and a newfound appreciation of her fans. In the time she was absent from the jazz scene, Matsui retrieved a new manager, a new attorney and changed the landscape of the people who surround her. In recording “The Road,” the 22nd album of her illustrious career, Matsui found herself in a space where she has always longed to be.
She’s just happy to be back producing beautiful music again.
“I had a lot of things going on,” Matsui said in an interview with News4usonline.com. “It’s been a very hard four years. I had to re-organize my business. We have enjoyed playing the new material. These new songs carry a different mood, different energy. Those songs make us every excited.”
Those songs, which include the powerful “Affirmation” and the melodic “Secret Pond,” have made Matsui’s fans just as excited as well. Matsui describes her music as being “mystic.” The Japanese-born pianist has turned her illuminating music into a worldwide celebration of the elements that has reached international heights.
Matsui said that at times her music has saved her. Just as equally important to Matsui is that the soothing, calm sound that usually wrap itself around someone’s soul, has the capacity to save others as well. Matsui’s fans mean the world to her. It is because of her fans that Matsui went back into the studio and recorded “The Road.”
Performing at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts tonight, Matsui, who shares twin-billing with talented saxophonist Kirk Whalum, has taken a different road with her latest project than on her previous 21 albums with “The Road.”
“The Road” is more personal, more reflective, and produces more musical intimacy with her fans for Matsui, who put out her last album four years ago. With over a million and half albums sold and general recognition as one of the premier instrumentalists of this generation, Matsui said the key to her longtime success has always been tied with her creative and spiritual journey with her fans.
“I’m really honored and fortunate that my music has reached so many people,” Matsui said. “Music is a really magical thing. It’s a very mystic thing we are doing with the shows. I am very happy about my new album. This album carries a lot of my soul and the spiritual elements on this album. This album is like expressing my soul and the beauty of life.”
Part of the beauty of this life is connecting with others. Matsui, who has worked the stage with music giants like Miles Davis, Bob James and Stevie Wonder, loves that feeling. For Matsui it’s all about connecting her fans. In one such transaction between Matsui and a male fan, it resulted in the single mother of two children being challenged to continue to make the music that has touched so many folks.
Matsui was moved by the letter. It was a connection she believes is tied to the supernatural world of spirituality.
“It really shows that we’re connecting somewhere,” Matsui said. “By listening to my music when I compose and when I play, I really feel that there is a connection to something above. So, it’s very spiritual and mystic. Sometimes you hear the elements from classic, rock, jazz and all music, but they all come from my heart. Music really connects us.”
For Matsui, music can be the one metaphor that ease the stains of war, poverty, crime and all other negativity that spans the globe. Music is the one language that everyone can identify with, Matsui said.
“There are so many things…with the wars and sad things are happening. But with music I believe we can create commonality from music,” Matsui said. “By playing my music all over the world, I’d like to make more peace here on this earth and to make people happier. That’s my goal.”
The world is better off with Matsui pursing that goal now. As a youngster growing up, playing the piano was far from Matsui’s plans for her life. Being a career musician just wasn’t on the agenda for a young Matsui. Sure, she took up piano lessons at the tender age of five. But playing soccer with the boys was a lot more fun.
It wasn’t until she began writing her own music and working on projects as a middle school student that Matsui said she began to get serious about playing the piano. Twenty-two albums later, garnering critical acclaim for her music and enjoying a worldwide fan base, Matsui is happy things turned out the way they did.
“I never thought about being a professional musician,” Matsui said. “I was a very active kid, studying and playing sports. But somehow, from junior high or so, I was chosen for some special projects. Then I started doing my own music. Somehow I got this far.”