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Keiko Matsui: Collection

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No stars How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Keiko Matsui's Collection consists of twelve cuts culled from the albums Under the Northern Lights and No Borders. Fans of Keiko's jazz / funk piano and keyboard will want to pick this up if they can't get the earlier discs, but it features no "bonus" or "previously unreleased" cuts to drag in diehard fans.

As for the music, well, my wife walked by while I was playing this CD and remarked, "Sounds like the theme of a Japanese TV show." She lived in Japan for a few years, and for all I know, the theme songs she heard there were all written and performed by none other than the illustrious Keiko Matsui. In any case, it's glossy, danceable, and profound as late-night electronic dance music sometimes aspires to be. And not all the textures are machine-made: Eric Marienthal and Brandon Fields play some burning sax on "Mountain Shakedown," and Kazu Matsui's Shakuhachi adds a haunting feel to "The Wind and the Wolf." Fields adds some searching mountain-top riffs to "Under Northern Lights," where Robben Ford chimes in with a few of his own, the kind made those Miles Davis (and George Harrison) shows such a gas.

Marienthal is back on "Light in the Rain" with some excellent high-flying tenor. What might he sound like with an acoustic background with which he could more fully express his individuality, it made me wonder. On this track, Clay Jenkins and Bill Armstrong are listed on trumpets and Steve Holtman on 'bone, but they didn't stand out much from the mix.

On the other hand, maybe I was too busy shakin' that booty. Ain't nothin' here that won't make you want to get up out of that chair and find that old leisure suit. Nothing raw, not a hair out of place. Trends in "jazz," whatever that is, tend to ape those in the rest of the world. There is a tradition of jazz playing that parallels the Sixties' rebelliousness and spirit of adventure. Then there is a tradition of jazz that counts Saturday Night Fever and high-gloss disco funk among its forefathers-and here we are.

So if that sort of thing is your cup of tea, you'll love the gauzy longing tones of the likes of "Believer," wherein John Crosse's really fine (soprano) saxophone work is laid down to sleep on a beautiful cottony bed of synthesized strings, and all's well that ends well. The level of musicianship in general is very high, with standouts being Marienthal and the other reedmen, plus the impeccable Keiko. There is nothing to criticize about this music: it does what it sets out to do with utter efficiency. So get up and dance.

Personnel is merely a cast of thousands. Besides those already mentioned, I should single out Carlos Vega's drumming for special mention. Mr. Vega is strong and as steady as a metronome. This kind of music doesn't give him a great deal to do besides keep time, but he holds up his end. It may seem strange to single out a man for doing well in not standing out, but this music is not about standing out. And certainly for dance and background music it shows evidence of being assembled with considerable care and attention to detail.

Record Label: GRP Records

Style: Contemporary/Smooth


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