The Jazz Channel Presents Keiko Matsui (BET on Jazz) (DVD) Cover Art

The Jazz Channel Presents Keiko Matsui (BET on Jazz) (DVD)

Africa - The Serengeti

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Keiko Matsui may have won a few Smooth Jazz Awards, but the Japanese- born, classically influenced keyboardist's music is not jazz--at least not if your definition of jazz includes swinging, the blues, and improvisation, all of which are in relatively short supply in this nearly 90-minute performance (plus DVD bonus features, including an interview with the artist). Not that it matters, really. Whatever you call the style--"contemporary instrumental" seems as good a term as any--Matsui is one of its more appealing, and certainly most popular, exponents. A capable if not virtuosic player, she and her four-piece band (including a Japanese guitarist who seems to have listened to a lot more Jimi Hendrix than Jim Hall) offer up a generous set of 14 songs, all of them Matsui compositions. As titles like "Beyond the Light," "Night Waltz" and "Bridge over the Stars" would indicate, the sound is melodic, accessible, and, well, smooth; this is the kind of music that smooth-jazz radio was created for. And while that makes for few challenging moments, Matsui does provide enough variety--say, the minor-key, rhythmic drive of "Doll," or the shifting dynamics of "Foot Steps" (the two "jazziest" numbers here)--to keep things interesting. Best of all, she brings out Kazu Matsui, her husband and record producer, to play the shakuhachi (the Japanese wooden flute) on the final three numbers. Kazu's distinctively breathy sound and casual, humorous mien provide a welcome change of pace in a show that is otherwise a bit too safe for its own good. --Sam Graham

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