Keiko Matsui – Live in Tokyo (review)

Keiko Matsui – Live in Tokyo (Shanachie) (DVD/CD review)

The gifted pianist is even better in a live setting

Keiko Matsui’s last studio album, Soul Quest (which we reviewed here), was a high water mark in her long career. The album sold over a million copies, and the single, “Black Lion,” was a big hit on Smooth Jazz radio in the US. Live in Tokyo is taken from the tour supporting that album, and finds the pianist returning to her birthplace for a special concert with several guest musicians, captured on both DVD and CD.

Not surprisingly, the concert’s central focus is material from the Soul Quest album. Amazingly, these tracks are actually improvements over their studio counterparts. Cuts like “Dream Seeker” have an opportunity to breathe more in this live setting. “Black Lion” has a funkier quality in concert.

She has an opportunity to stand up and walk around, playing her Keytar on “Safari.” There is a lone, solo piano piece, “Forever, Forever,” which originally came from her album “The Piano” in 2003. A comparison to the original recording shows incredible growth in her melodic abilities.

Matsui’s joined by a pair of Smooth Jazz icons for the show. Guitarist Chuck Loeb supplies some incredibly fluid Latin-infused lines on “Caricias,” while saxophonist Kirk Whalum adds gritty soul to “Affirmation.” Both stars return for the stunning “Antartica – A Call to Action,” and the light-hearted “A Night With Cha Cha.”

The DVD version of the concert keeps things interesting through the use of multiple camera angles. In fact, there is a point where Matsui is shown from three different perspectives simultaneously. There’s also some interesting extras – a documentary called “Before the Doors…” which is a candid look at what happens before the lights go down, and “The Memories,” sort of a video diary of Matsui’s travels over the last few years.

As one of the most melodic pianists in music today, Live in Tokyo is an excellent document of an artist at the peak of her powers. —Tony Peters