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Madoca — Illusion of Love

Apr. 21, 2018

While this name may not ring familiar to many, lovely Japanese keyboardist Madoca Kawahara is no stranger to the industry at all. She actually got her first taste of show business in 1993 when touring with Japanese national bands and also performing on NHK TV in Tokyo/ Osaka. Over the years, she has performed with several American Jazz/R&B bands in Tokyo/Yokohama, Yokosuka, which included some navy base and NCO clubs appearances. In 2003, she finally made the move to the U.S., where she settled in Atlanta, GA.

In addition to her previous discs, Mysterious Ways (2005) and Amethyst (2008), her credits include opening for the late great Joe Sample, Herbie Hancock, and the Ramsey Lewis Tribute Concerts. She has also opened for Chris Botti, Rick Braun, Jonathan Butler, Richard Elliott, India Arie, Jean Carne, and Pamela Williams, to name a select few. So, let’s dismiss the idea that we’re listening to a “new” artist. Rather, we’re experiencing an artist whom some of us may have missed initially, and it is my great pleasure to put her luscious, funky, romantic, sometimes bluesy, full-bodied music to you via this review.

Her latest release Illusion of Love is an auditory beauty not to be missed. Her piano/keys skills literally sing out to you in a way that is sure to prove to be her signature call to all who listen.

The lead track, the attractive and bouncy “Surrender,” sets a definitive tone for what is to follow – sleek, structured, and feel-good contemporary jazz. Other tracks of note include the snappy “On the Bach With You,” a head-bopper with that certain smooth touch that just seems to make everything alright, the sexy and melodic title track that, in some ways, reminds one of the Sade approach; the bluesy “Sentimentally Yours’” and a few quality covers (e.g., Tito Puente’s rhythmic Latin-laced and jazzy “Picadillo”).

With producer/keyboardist/composer Bob Baldwin offering a significant hand in the production and arrangement of this gem (and you can clearly hear his influence throughout the album), I can see Madoca becoming a musical household name rather quickly if she stays with what is obviously a winning formula as evidenced on this album.

There’s oomph, substance, sophistication, and quality to this material. No “assembly line” implications here at all – it’s all authentic, fresh Madoca. This is one to get and certainly an artist to watch. – A++ effort. – Ronald Jackson