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Keiko Matsui — Echo

Feb. 1, 2019

Keyboardist/pianist Keiko Matsui, the lovely mega-talented pride of Japan and the princess of innovative c-jazz and World music, is at it again, releasing yet another of her top-tier incomparable projects for our endless listening and feeling experience. This time, we are treated to Echo, an album so full of all musical things elegantly beautiful and containing that Keiko jazz/jazz fusion element (listen to the lead track “Unshakable” for an example) with mind-blowing runs, timing innovations, and more. This is Keiko surpassing her own past Picasso-like work, delivering with such stellar contributing musicians as the great and personable saxman Kirk Whalum, bassists Marcus Miller, Jimmy Johnson, Rico Belled, & Kyle Eastwood, guitarist Paul Jackson Jr., drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, saxman Brandon Fields, and others.

Along with those mentioned above, there is a killer horn arrangement featuring Nick Lane (trombone), Walt Fowler (trumpet), and Walt Bergeron (trumpet) that one simply must experience at many points on this album.

The album is, as is always the case with her music, bursting with explosive energy, creativity, color, and sophistication.

Settle back and allow yourself to be captured and held hostage to such tracks as the previously mentioned fusiony lead track “Unshakable,” “Moon Over Gotham,” and “Esprit” featuring the unmistakable sax of Kirk Whalum (who again puts on another superior, stirring performance as he did on her previous album The Road… 11 years ago with “Affirmation “ and “Awakening”).

Want some Keiko blues? Get an earful of “Marlin Club Blues” featuring Robben Ford and Paul Jackson Jr. on guitars, Brandon Fields on sax, and that horn section I mentioned earlier, laying down some robust, heavy work.

The pianist/keyboardist ends the set with “Return to Eternity,” returning to her 90s-style with the ethereal strings (ah, the memories!) playing a huge role in the track. Bassist Eastwood does great justice here with his acoustic bass offering, as well.

Fact: No one does it like Keiko, and I’m doubtful that anyone will any time soon. There’s newness here, there’s signature Keiko here, there’s imagination and food for the soul here, and there’s vision here.

I have so loved this virtuoso’s work since her Drop of Water solo debut, and each album since has proven why I remain completely enamored. Echo is another jewel in her crown of winners. You should expect this one to soar to the top of the charts. —Ronald Jackson