Title - 'Moyo' (Shout! Factory)
Artist - Keiko Matsui
Keiko Matsui has forged her way into unchartered musical territories in the past through her unique combinations of Eastern and Western, classical and jazz, sophistication and raw passion. On Moyo, she doesn't move in any drastic new directions - sometimes the opposite, as she revisits a number of compositions from previous albums--rather, she demonstrates her comfort in her own little corner of the musical universe by expanding on the ideas and forces she has already set into motion in her previous work.
This album is like a musical voyage around the world, leading us with drama-infused violins and bold brass through Spain on the tracks "Caricias" (Caresses, a title justified by the track's sensitive percussion) and "An Evening in Gibraltar."
Waldemar Bastos' evocative vocal performance on "Um Novo Dia" may draw the listener's ear in the direction of opera. The song's modal melody may draw the ear toward religious chant. The balance of Matsui's articulate performance, the raw strength of the bass, and the breadth of percussive gestures will fill the listener's mind with diverse images from clear new-agey skies to a highly technical piano recital to tribal dances around the bonfire.
Matsui expands her musical space by branching out into genres unexplored for her: the funky reggae feel here and there on "After the Rain" and "Old Potch Road," and the straight-ahead smooth jazz feel of "Into the Night" may take Matsui's conditioned listeners by surprise.
Matsui's compositions gain their strength from the veteran recording artists who accompany her on this album. Paul Taylor's sax is distinctive and perfectly suited to the fast-paced, contagious energy of "Black River." Gerald Albright's sax on "Allure" weaves in and out of focus and serves as the perfect compliment to Matsui's performance as she jumps in and out of the shadows on her instrument to capture the listener's attention when it's least expected.
It must be no coincidence that Albright plays on "Allure." The track's refrain alludes directly to the refrain of "Moonlight Sailor," which Albright played on Matsui's "Night Waltz" album back in 1991. Matsui fans will be delighted by the new direction in which Matsui leads this familiar melody. Derek Nakamoto's production is seamless and not to be overlooked. Listen to "Into the Night," "A Great Romance," and especially "Caricias" where his professional touches really shine.
Matsui's style hasn't changed, however, and listeners will recognize her distinctive sound on tracks such as the fluid and ethereal, new-agey tracks "A Great Romance" and "When I Close My Eyes," and Matsui closes with an introspective, humble composition as usual with "Marula."
This album has just about everything you could expect from Matsui as well as a few exciting new twists and turns. With twelve tracks, running at 52:43, it provides more play-time than the typical ten-track album this prolific composer's audience is accustomed to.
The only drawback I can see to this album is that Matsui, who is noted for her ability to compose memorable, original tunes that last with the listener, often seems to create on this album mere imitations of her existing compositions. The melody on "Caricias" is strikingly similar to "Deity in the Silence," and the melody from "After the Rain" is identical to that of "The White Corridor," with the only alteration being a slight change in its timing.
Similar comparisons can be drawn from almost every track on the album. While this may leave some listeners feeling like Matsui has run out of ideas, relatively new listeners wouldn't care, and other fans may enjoy the throwback to old hits. In the end, it's no surprise when artists tend to sound like themselves. And it doesn't much affect how enjoyable the album is to listen to.