Event Preview: Keiko Matsui

Published by Bernie LaRosa

Japanese-born pianist and composer Keiko Matsui has become an icon in contemporary smooth jazz, reaching virtually every corner of the globe over the past 25 years. Matsui is truly a consummate artist who feels at home in any musical context. She is unique in that her original compositions transcend boundaries, blending a rich and diverse melting pot of influences that range from jazz, classical, and rock to blues and world music. Matsui’s timeless, passionate, and emotional melodies speak to a universally appealing language to listeners worldwide. She will be making an upcoming Friday night appearance at the Bankhead Theater.

Get to Know Keiko Matsui

Born in Tokyo, Keiko had her first piano lesson soon after her fifth birthday. She focused primarily on classical music until later in her high school years, when she developed an interest in jazz. Keiko looked to Stevie Wonder, Maurice Jarre, and Chick Corea for inspiration as she began composing her own music. She went on to study children’s culture at Japan Women’s University, as well as music at the Yamaha Music Foundation. At just 17, Keiko was selected to be a recording artist for them. She joined the Japanese jazz fusion group Cosmos, which recorded seven albums.  

In terms of recording success, Matsui’s career began to truly blossom in the 1990s. Sapphire reached number two on Billboard’s weekly Top Contemporary Jazz Albums chart, while Dream Walk climbed to number three. In 1997, Matsui became the lone female jazz artist in Billboard’s top 10 Contemporary Jazz Artists. The next two years, Masui received the Oasis award for Best Female Smooth Jazz Artist of the Year. In 2001, Matsui finally reached the top as her album Deep Blue took her to the top spot on Billboard.

Her Music

Matsui’s sound is so interesting because it blends both Western and Eastern musical influences. She believes that music has the ability to bring people together and change their lives. When listening to Matsui’s music, you can’t help but notice her love of nature. Matsui makes references to plants, animals, and other natural features in her song titles.

Over the last few years, Matsui’s albums show more of a worldbeat (blend of pop or rock music with world or traditional music) style. Since 2010, Matsui has released several solo albums including:

  • The Road (2011)
  • Soul Quest (2013)
  • Live in Tokyo (2015)
  • Journey to the Heart (2016)

Giving Back

Not only does Matsui influence with her music, but also her time. In 1997, her CD A Gift Of Hope went to support the Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization. That same year, she played at a special ice skating benefit to support Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Proceeds from that same CD went to the National Marrow Donor Program and Marrow Foundation in 2001 to support their program Asians for Miracle Marrow Matches, which promotes the registration of people of ethnic minorities as marrow donors to help improve the chance of finding matches.

Matsui’s efforts didn’t stop there, though. In 2003, she played at the United Nations Headquarters building to benefit the World Food Programme and fight world hunger.

What She’s Saying

Matsui explains on her official website that “My melodies are my living testimony. I feel that the world is getting crazier and we need to collectively go back and recall what connects us all…our spirits, hearts, and our souls.” With her recent release of Journey to the Heart, Matsui confirms that she continues to work toward impacting the world in a positive way.

“We need to find that common bond in our hearts. People are dying with violence, hunger, and war. This music is my new journey,” Matsui says. “It’s an evolution in many ways. I hope I can make a path and make some noise and leave a positive effect on the world. This is my mission and I am dedicating my music to this cause.”

The Performance

The Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center is excited to welcome Keiko Matsui on Friday, August 18 at 8 p.m. in the Bankhead Theater. Book your tickets today! Don’t forget to check out our event calendar for other upcoming performances.

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